How can we help parents keep their children safe from injury at home?

young dad kissing baby

We’ll wrap up our look at evidence on injuries this week with a move away from sports into the home. Not many of us run marathons, but we all run the risk of injury from everyday hazards and need to think how we can minimize the risks and keep ourselves and our families safe. So what’s new on this front?

A year ago I wrote a blog about a Cochrane review which looked at whether providing information and safety equipment can prevent injuries in the home. This has now been updated and includes 98 studies with over two million people. It finds that home safety interventions, usually giving face-to-face information, can increase a range of safety measures in the home and especially if people are given equipment like smoke alarms too. This may also reduce the number of injuries that happen in the home.

There’s also a new Cochrane review which explored whether parenting programmes could help prevent accidental injury in children and increase safety practices and the possession of safety equipment at home. Accidental injuries in children are common occurrences, of course, but more so under certain circumstances, such as when a child

vintage photo of child in plane cockpit

Parents can underestimate what their child might get up to

has behavioural problems or the mother has poor mental health. They also happen when parents misjudge what their child can do or understand and discover that he could reach the kettle or didn’t remember she mustn’t touch the socket. The review includes 22 studies, of which 16 were randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and most recruited disadvantaged families, such as those with teenage mums or mums with learning difficulties. Children in these families would be at higher risk of accidental injury.

Here’s what they found:

  • Data from 10 RCTs (5074 people) were combined and showed that families who had the parenting intervention were at significantly lower risk of injury than those who didn’t
  • Intervention families had safer homes, with more safety practices or fewer hazards
  • Results from 3 RCTs (368 children) using the HOME assessment tool to evaluate home safety found no difference between those who had the intervention and those who didn’t
  • The studies were judged to be of moderate quality overall

The reviewers concluded:

Parenting interventions, most commonly provided within the home using multi-faceted interventions, are effective in reducing injury. There is fairly consistent evidence that they also improve home safety.

This review doesn’t tell us which elements of parenting interventions are important, nor whether they would be similarly effective with more advantaged families or in low and middle income countries. But this sounds promising in terms of injury prevention in countries like the UK. Stay safe this weekend.


Kendrick D, Mulvaney CA, Ye L, Stevens T, Mytton JA, Stewart-Brown S. Parenting interventions for the prevention of unintentional injuries in childhood. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD006020. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006020.pub3. Cochrane summary of this review Kendrick D, Coupland C, Mason-Jones AJ, Mulvaney C, Simpson J, Smith S, Sutton A, Watson M. Home safety education and provision of safety equipment for injury prevention.Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD005014. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005014.pub2. Cochrane summary of this review