Injury in Children (Child Development)

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An “accident” implies that an injury is a random, unpredictable event, an act of God or fate. We use the term “injury control” instead of “accident” to imply that harm can be minimized if controls are in place. Most “accidents” to young children are preventable.

Worldwide, unintended and avoidable injuries cause millions of premature deaths, especially to preschool age children. Immaturity of the prefontal cortex makes young children unlikely to think things through, so they get themselves into dangerous places and activities. Unlike infants, preschoolers growing motor skills allow them to run, leap, jump and grab in a flash. Their curiosity is boundless and their impulses are uninhibited. As parents and caregivers we often have to find a balance between giving our children freedom to explore and experience the world fully and protecting them from harm.

Describe an injury you (or your child/relative) sustained as a child, including injuries that resulted in stitches, broken bones, or scars. Could any of these injuries have been prevented? How? (remember, prevention happens on three levels) Did any of the developmental characteristics of a preschool child that were discussed above contribute to the injury?

Things to refer to for this post:

Gross motor skills (large body movements) improve dramatically between 2 and 6. These abilities require practice, and a certain level of brain maturation, plus motivation. Children learn these skills by teaching themselves, by learning them from other children and their families, and when they are given plenty of time and opportunities to practice.

Fine motor skills (small body movements, especially of the hands and fingers) are much harder for preschoolers to master.

Children’s artwork provides a way of practicing fine motor skills, and it involves coordination of action and thought as well as a sense of accomplishment.

Look at how art can show the developmental progress a child is making in their perception of human beings and their ability to use symbols to illustrate it. Pages 236 and 237 show how dramatic the change in ability is.

Age related trends are apparent in particular kinds of injuries, which should alert us to the particular dangers of various periods. For preschoolers, death is more often caused by accidentally swallowing poison, being burned, choking, or drowning. They are less likely to be killed in car crashes, especially when adults obey laws that require children to ride in car seats.

For the very young, under 24 months, falls are likely to be fatal. 

Teenagers and young adults are most often killed as passengers of drivers in car accidents.

The immaturity of the prefrontal cortex makes young children less likely to think things through, so they plunge into dangerous places and activities.

Injury prevention is no accident. It is a choice made by parents, by manufacturers, by legislators, and by society. Safety surfaces rather than concrete under climbing equipment, car seats, and bicycle helmets are examples of some social controls. In practice, this means anticipating, controlling, and preventing dangerous activities.

Three levels of prevention are needed. Laws and practices should be put in place to protect everyone (primary), appropriate supervision can guard against accidents (secondary), and medical treatment that is quick and effective when injury occurs (tertiary).