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Sex Differences in Children’s Street Crossing Strategies: Proactive Females and Reactive Males

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Title: Sex Differences in Children’s Street Crossing Strategies: Proactive Females and Reactive Males
Author: Stewart, Julia
Department: Department of Psychology
Program: Psychology
Advisor: Morrongiello, Barbara
Abstract: Pedestrian injury is among the leading causes of paediatric death throughout the world, accounting for over 30,000 deaths annually. Consistent with childhood injury statistics, males are at a markedly increased risk for experiencing an injury as a pedestrian with rates as high as double that of their female counterparts. In attempting to understand these statistics, researchers have postulated that differences in the pre crossing decisions of males and females may account for the disparity in their injury rates. However, research that tests this hypothesis has been limited. Using a fully-immersive virtual reality simulator, the current study examined children’s behaviours as they crossed a virtual road and sought to identify behavioural strategies that differentially influence the street crossing outcomes of young males and females. Results indicated that females selected significantly larger gaps to cross into than their male counterparts, demonstrating a heightened risk threshold and a potentially proactive strategy. In contrast, males selected tighter gaps and then reacted with behaviors to try and moderate their injury risk (quicker movements into the gap, increased walking speed, increased monitoring of traffic). However, these compensatory efforts were not effective, resulting in higher risk crossings and cars more often coming dangerously close to them. Potential explanations for these sex-based differences in strategies and implications for prevention are discussed.
Date: 2020-04
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