Playing it safe: The relationship between parent attitudes to risk and injury, and children's adventurous play and physical activity

Alethea Gabriel Jerebine, Mohammadreza Mohebbi, Natalie Lander, Emma Eyre, Michael Duncan, Lisa M. Barnett

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Background: Children naturally seek risk in play and adventurous play outdoors confers many benefits, including the potential to increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). This study aimed to investigate the relationship between parent attitudes to risk and injury, and their elementary school-aged child's daily adventurous play and MVPA. 

Methods: A panel sample of 645 Australian parents/guardians completed an online survey consisting of several validated measures of risk and injury attitudes, and physical activity and play behaviour. Data were analysed via descriptive statistics, univariate and multivariable regressions using Stata 17. A series of exploratory univariate logistic regressions were conducted, followed by a series of multivariable logistic regressions fitted to test the association between parent risk and injury attitudes and (i) children's MVPA, (ii) active play and (iii) adventurous play, while adjusting for socio-demographic factors.

Results: Most adult participants (81%) were female. The mean age of the child participants (53% male) was 8.6 years (SD = 2.4). On average, parents were positive about children's engagement with risk, however, 78% of parents had low tolerance of risk when presented with specific play scenarios, and attitudes towards injuries varied, with mothers more concerned than fathers. After adjusting for confounders, children with parents who were tolerant of risk in play were more likely to meet the MVPA guideline of ≥60 min daily (OR 2.86, CI: 1.41, 5.82, p < 0.004) and spend more time playing adventurously (OR 3.03, CI: 1.82, 5.06, p < 0.001). Positive associations for MVPA and adventurous play were observed across all models examining parent attitudes to risk and injury. Younger children engaged in more play and physical activity, however, more positive parent attitudes appeared to moderate the age-related influences. 

Conclusions: We found a divergence between the outcomes parents desire for their children through engagement with risk and the play activities they are comfortable with in practice. Parent attitudes to risk and injury are potentially modifiable factors that may increase children's affordances for adventurous play and physical activity. Interventions that provide parents with practical approaches to address injury concerns and support children's risk-taking in play outdoors are recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102536
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology of sport and exercise
Early online date9 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (


This work was supported by the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Graduate Student Research Grant. AJ is supported by a Cotutelle Doctoral Scholarship from Deakin University and Coventry University.


  • Active play
  • MVPA
  • Affordances
  • Physical literacy
  • Risky play


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