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Child understandings of the causation of childhood burn injuries: Child activity, parental domestic demands, and impoverished settings


Child Care Health and Development

Published online on


Background Burns are a global public health problem. In South Africa, the rate of paediatric burn deaths is 5 times higher than other upper middle‐income countries, with concentrations in impoverished settings. Globally, the majority of research focuses on expert and caregiver descriptions of burn occurrence, causation, and prevention, with limited consideration of children's perspectives. This study investigated children's understanding of the causation and prevention of childhood burns. Methods Data were collected from eighteen 10‐ to 11‐year‐old children living in selected impoverished, fire‐affected neighbourhoods in Cape Town, through 3 isiXhosa focus groups. All focus groups were transcribed, coded, and analysed for emerging themes through thematic analysis. Results Themes regarding burn causation and risks centred around 4 themes: (a) developmental limits in context; (b) domestic chores, child capacity, and inability to say “no”; (c) inadequate supervision and compromised caregiving; and (d) unsafe structures. Child accounts of prevention pertained to (e) burn injury prevention activities in comprised environments and emphasized child agency, and upgrading the physical environment. Conclusion The children in this study ascribed burn injuries as the consequence of their developmental limits in the context of poverty, constraints on parental supervision, and unsafe environments. The children recommended safety education and upgrading their physical environments as part of burns injury prevention. The child accounts offer useful insights to inform safety interventions in impoverished settings.