Children‘s facial proximity behaviour: a risk factor for facial bites?

Meints, Kerstin, Syrnyk, Corinne, de Keuster, Tiny and Just, Janine (2014) Children‘s facial proximity behaviour: a risk factor for facial bites? In: ISAZ 2014, 19 - 22 July 2014, Vienna.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Poster)
Item Status:Live Archive


The majority of dog bite accidents happen at home and involve children under the age of 7
(Kahn et al. 2003) and a familiar dog. The prevalence of bites that lead to hospital treatment in
children is double as in the general population (Kahn et al. 2004) and often children suffer from
dog bites resulting in facial injuries (Bernardo et al 2002, Kahn et al.2003; Schalamon et al 2006 ).
Fifty-five percent of children suffer post-traumatic stress disorder following a substantial bite (Peters
et al. 2004). According to research these bites are independent of the size of the dog (Kahn
et al 2003), but more related to the age of the child – however, it is unclear why young children
get bitten mainly in the face and neck area.
As in the majority of cases (86 %, Kahn et al., 2003) children’s behaviour triggers bite injuries, we
studied if young children’s tendency to lean in on objects of interest could be a contributing cause
of facial bites. As young children’s tendency to lean in has only been anecdotally observed so far,
we investigated if this leaning-in behaviour exists and under which conditions we can trigger such
behaviour. More specifically and in relation to the risk of dog bites, we studied the role of smell,
mobility, novelty and height of the object (e.g. positioned at floor, chair, table-level) on children’s
facial proximity and leaning-in behaviour. We used objects and toy animals as stimuli as well as
carrying out a first exploration with small animals.
We video-recorded all trials and used a custom-made grid to code for physical proximity and leaning
in behaviours. A total of 24 2-year-olds (7 females and 17 males), 24 3-year-olds (16 females
and 8 males), 24 4-year-olds (15 females and 9 males), 24 5-year-olds (12 females and 12 males)
and 24 6-year-olds (13 females and 11 males) participated in the study.
Children showed highly significant effects of intrusive facial proximity especially with moving
items (e.g. animates/toy animals) or novel items ((F(2, 220) = 42.12, p < .0001; F(1, 110) = 13.17,
p < .0001). A highly significant main effect for age was found (F(4, 115) = 6.43; p < .001). Children
of 2 and 3 years showed significantly more proximity behaviours than 4-, 5- and 6-year-old
children. In addition, we also gathered first evidence that children show clear leaning-in behaviour
with small animals.
Thus, we can raise parental awareness of younger children’s intrusive inspection behaviour, integrate
this knowledge in prevention messages and contribute to reduction in bite injuries, especially
to children’s faces.

Keywords:Human-Animal Interaction, Injury Prevention
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C820 Developmental Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
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ID Code:18791
Deposited On:13 Jul 2016 09:07

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