Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Amy Damashek

Second Advisor

Dr. Scott Gaynor

Third Advisor

Dr. Amy Naugle

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Neelkamal Soares


Unintentional injury, child health outcomes, child safety, technology, caregiver supervision


Unintentional injuries are the leading killer of children in the United States. Research indicates caregiver supervision decreases child injury risk, but has not examined how different distractions may affect this relation. Specifically, research has not considered if and how caregiver cell phone use affects child injury risk. Given the prevalence and distracting effects of cell phones noted in previous studies, it is imperative to examine how caregiver cell phone use and child injury risk relate.

The present study examined how distractions influenced caregivers’ ability to tend to their child and their child’s engagement in risky behavior. Using a within-subjects design, fifty-one caregivers participated with their young children (ages 1-5) in three conditions: no distraction, pen-and-paper, and electronic. Sessions occurred in a pseudo hazards room and were video recorded to observe caregiver (e.g., vigilance) and child behavior (e.g., engagement with hazards) related to injury risk.

Results indicate that caregiver vigilance was highest in the no distraction condition, lower in the electronic condition, and was lowest in the pen-and-paper condition. Child engagement with hazards was highest in the pen-and-paper condition, followed by the electronic condition, and was lowest in the no distraction condition. Regardless the form, distracting tasks impacted both caregiver and child behavior associated with injury risk. Future research should examine what makes an activity distracting (e.g., cognitive demand required of the task, form of the distraction). Given the ubiquity of cell phones, research should continue comparing the effects of caregiver phone use to other daily tasks in relation to child injury risk.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access