Examining the relative effectiveness of different message framing strategies for child passenger safety: Recommendations for increased comprehension and compliance

  • Published: Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 79, June 2015
  • Authors: Kelli England Will, Lawrence E. Decina, , Erin L. Maple, and Amy M. Perkins
  • Date Added: 07 Dec 2015
  • Last Update: 31 Oct 2016
  • Format: pdf


To evaluate various methods of framing child passenger safety recommendations, and to examine the relative effectiveness on parents’ knowledge, attitudes, and behavioural intentions related to best practice and proper use of child restraints.


A randomized experiment in which 300 parents answered a pre-survey, viewed one of four versions of a child passenger safety leaflet or were in a no-education control version, and completed a post-survey. The surveys measured child passenger safety knowledge, attitudes, perceptions of efficacy and risk, and behavioural intentions.

The four leaflets communicated the same child passenger safety recommendations, but each version employed a different emphasis frame (a persuasion technique that involves placing focus on specific aspects of the content in order to encourage or discourage certain interpretations of the content). The four versions were (1) recommendations organized by the natural progression of seat types; (2) recommendations which focused on avoiding premature graduation; (3) recommendations which explained the risk-reduction rationale behind the information given; or (4) recommendations which were organized by age. In a fifth no-education (control) condition, participants viewed marketing materials.

Key Findings

  • Age-appropriate child restraints and putting children in the rear seats dramatically reduce injury in vehicle crashes. But parents and caregivers struggle to comply with child passenger safety recommendations, and frequently make mistakes when choosing and installing restraints.

  • The risk-reduction rationale leaflet outperformed other flyers for many subscales, and significantly differed from no-education control for the most subscales, including restraint selection, rear seat knowledge, rear-facing knowledge and attitudes, total efficacy, overall attitudes, and stated intentions.

  • The premature graduation flyer performed best for efficacy subscales, but did not significantly differ from the risk reduction rationale flyer for total efficacy. For changes in self-efficacy, the premature graduation flyer outperformed all other flyers.

  • The natural progression flyer performed best for attitudes subscales, but did not significantly differ from the risk reduction rationale flyer.

  • The age-based flyer performed significantly better than control only for changes in overall attitudes and stated intentions. However, the age-based flyer was outperformed by the risk reduction rationale flyer for restraint selection score.

  • All materials were rated favourably, with no significant differences among flyers for parent’s ratings.

  • This provides insight for increasing caregiver understanding and compliance with child passenger safety information.

  • Recommendations include communicating the rationale behind the information given, using behaviour-based directives in headers, avoiding age-based headers, and incorporating rear-seat positioning directives throughout.

  • Real behavior was not observed, only behavioural intentions, which do not always lead to actual behavior change.