Why do children get bitten in the face

Meints, K., Syrnyk, C. & De Keuster, T. Why do children get bitten in the face?

The majority of dog bite accidents happen at home and involve children under the age of 7 (Kahn et al. 2003) and a familiar dog. The prevalence of bites in children is double as in the general population (Kahn et al. 2004) and often children suffer from dog bites resulting in facial injuries (Bernardo et al 2002, Kahn et al.2003; Schalamon et al 2006 ). 55% children suffer post-traumatic stress disorder following a substantial bite (Peters et al. 2004). According to research these bites are independent of the size of the dog (Kahn et al 2003), therefore it is unclear why young children get bitten mainly in the face and neck area.

As often children’s behaviour triggers bite injuries, we studied children’s physical distance to an object and the role of smell and mobility of an object on children’s facial proximity (leaning in) behaviour. We tested this with novel objects and toy animals in children from 2-6 years A total of 24 2-year-olds (7 females and 17 males), 24 3-year-olds (16 females and 8 males), 24 4-year-olds (15 females and 9 males), 24 5-year-olds (12 females and 12 males) and 24 6-year-olds (13 females and 11 males) participated in the item exploration study.
Children showed significant effects of intrusive facial proximity especially with moving items (e.g. animates/ toy animals) or novel items. Children at 2 and 3 years showed significantly more proximity behaviours than 4-, 5- and 6-year-old children. In addition, we also gathered first evidence that children show clear leaning in behaviour with small animals.Thus, we can now make parents aware of younger children’s intrusive inspection behaviour, integrate this knowledge in prevention message.

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Research funded by Blue Dog Trust. £ 6000 and Waltham Trust $ 15.000.

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