Health consequences of behaviors: Injury as a model

C. E. Irwin, M. F. Cataldo, A. P. Matheny, L. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Injury is the third leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause for children, adolescents, and young adults. Injury results from multiple factors and so may its prevention. The first and simplest approach toward preventing injuries has been to innovatively and aggressively apply a traditional public health model. Strategically, the goal has been to remove harmful agents of injury and to make the environment safer. Tactics such as public information, product regulation, legislative action, and the like have been credited with reductions in mortality and morbidity. To expand our understanding and our prevention strategies across multiple injuries, other scientific knowledge bases and intervention models from fields such as psychology and child development are being used to study childhood injury. These approaches show that in addition to environmental determinants, psychosocial factors involving both the care giver and the child are related to injury. The research programs described here illustrate the advantage of investigating psychosocial factors at both molar and molecular levels. General characteristics of mothers and children related to injury help define families at risk, as well as suggesting vehicles for intervention. Behavioral factors influencing risk perception highlight the etiology of increased risk in adolescence. Injury episodes, even slight, as well as 'near injuries' and dangerous and risky behavior can be quantified and analyzed by retrospective ('postmortem') approaches yielding data on commonly occurring consequences (and the lack thereof) for minor injury. Finally, approaches that simulate dangerous situations can identify interaction patterns that result in childhood injury. Based on such research, we are coming to view injuries as the result of patterns of behaviors that develop and persist over time, and as such these patterns can be detected and, one hopes, altered before a serious medical event occurs. The role of the pediatrician after injury occurs is clear. With regard to prevention of injuries, pediatricians' roles are being defined by those individuals who have begun to investigate causes, educate families, and advocate for regulation and prevention. However, like the causes and methods for prevention, the disciplines involved in the study and prevention of injury are multiple. Such a multidisciplinary approach that considers multiple factors, theories, models, and interventions to prevent injury may be the approach that is as simple as possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)798-807
Number of pages10
Issue number5 II SUPPL.
StatePublished - Dec 1 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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