Determinants of unintentional injuries in preschool age children in high‐income countries: A systematic review

Laura Gallagher, Gavin Breslin, Gerard Leavey*, Emma Curran, Michael Rosato

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in preschool children who are subject to specific risk factors. We sought to clarify the determinants of unintentional injuries in children aged 5 years and under in high-income countries and report on the methodological quality of the selected studies.

A systematic review was conducted of observational studies investigating determinants of unintentional injury in children aged 0–5. Searches were conducted in Web of Science, Medline, Embase, PsycInfo and CINAHL. All methods of data analysis and reporting followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA 2021) guidelines. Determinants are reported at the child, parental, household and area level.

An initial search revealed 6179 records. Nineteen studies met the inclusion criteria: 17 cohort studies and 2 case control studies. While studies included longitudinal surveys and administrative healthcare data analysis, the highest quality studies examined were case–control designs. Child factors associated with unintentional injury include male gender, age of the child at the time of injury, advanced gross motor score, sleeping problems, birth order, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis and below average score on the standard strengths and difficulties scale. Parental factors associated with unintentional injuries included younger parenthood, poor maternal mental health, hazardous or harmful drinking by an adult within the home, substance misuse, low maternal education, low paternal involvement in childcare and routine and manual socioeconomic classification. Household factors associated with injury were social rented accommodation, single-parent household, White ethnicity in the United Kingdom, number of children in the home and parental perception of a disorganised home environment. Area-level factors associated with injury were area-level deprivation and geographic remoteness.

Child factors were the strongest risk factors for injury, whereas parental factors were the most consistent. Further research is needed to examine the role of supervision in the relationships between these risk factors and injury. Injury intent should be considered in studies using administrative healthcare data. Prospective research may consider utilising linked survey and administrative data to counter the inherent weaknesses of these research approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13161
Number of pages17
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number1
Early online date09 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • injury prevention
  • childhood injuries
  • accidents
  • unintentional injury


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