What explains children’s responses to a lure from a stranger?

New paper from the Zlab and the Act for Kids Research project:

White, C., Shanley, D., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Walsh, K., & Hawkins, R. (2018). “Tell, tell, tell again”: The Prevalence and correlates of young children’s response to and disclosure of an in-vivo lure from a stranger. Child Abuse & Neglect, 82, 134-143. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.06.001.

Despite being a key target outcome to prevent child maltreatment, little research has been conducted to examine the prevalence and predictors of interpersonal safety skills in a standardised manner. In this study, interpersonal safety skills were measured in a Year 1–2 student sample through use of a standardised simulated risk scenario, with three primary skills examined: withdrawal from an unknown confederate (motor safety response), verbal refusal of an abduction lure (verbal safety response) and disclosure of confederate presence. Children who participated in this study had not completed any prior behavioural skills training or child protective education programs. Overall, the prevalence of interpersonal safety skills varied, with 27% children withdrawing from the confederate, 48% refusing the lure and 83% disclosing the confederate’s presence. For correlates, motor and verbal safety responses were positively associated with each other. However, the only other correlate of interpersonal safety skills was anxiety, with children who had greater anxiety disclosing earlier but also being more likely to agree to leave with the confederate. Future research may seek to examine whether these correlates remain present with different types of interpersonal safety risk (e.g., bullying) and to identify other potential predictors of interpersonal safety skill use.


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