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Children's perceptions of dangerous substances

Pfeffer, K.; Wilson, B.


K. Pfeffer

B. Wilson


The aim of this research was to examine age differences in children's perceptions of dangerous substances. Children's responses to photographs of child models encountering alcohol, a syringe, medicine, glue, and household bleach were coded for recognition of substance, awareness of potential danger, and understanding of danger or harm. Responses from 59 children (28 girls and 31 boys, who were all children of the required age in an urban primary school) were compared across three age groups (6-7 years, 8-9 years, and 10-11 years). 15 to 18 of 20 children in each of three age groups recognised all the dangerous substances. Significant differences across age groups were found for awareness of the potential harm from alcohol, glue, and medicine, but not for the syringe or bleach. Children reported less serious consequences from ingesting alcohol than other substances, the consequences of sniffing glue tended to be confused with the sticking properties of glue, children's understanding of transmission of germs, disease, and AIDS through syringes was varied, and there was a tendency among the older children to underestimate the potential harm of self-administration of medicines. Findings were discussed in relation to children's concepts of danger and safety education.


Pfeffer, K., & Wilson, B. (2004). Children's perceptions of dangerous substances. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 98(2), 700-710.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Aug 31, 2016
Publication Date Apr 1, 2004
Print ISSN 0031-5125
Electronic ISSN 1558-688X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 98
Issue 2
Pages 700-710
Keywords Experimental and Cognitive Psychology; Sensory Systems
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