A Survey about Kids and Risk


Hey folks — Researchers at the University of California-Irvine are studying how people perceive risk. They need people to take their survey and have asked the Free-Range community to join in. I just  took it myself. It’s basically brief descriptions of situations when a child is left alone. You rate how safe they are. The whole thing takes five minutes.

Here’s the link: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2155453/FRK-1

Thanks! enteynhtnr
The researchers promise to send us the results! – L


Kids, parents, risk. A quick survey.

Kids, parents, risk. A quick survey.




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39 Responses to A Survey about Kids and Risk

  1. BL July 28, 2015 at 7:33 am #

    “You must be 18 or older to participate in this study?”

    Why? Is it unsafe for anyone younger?


  2. Jens W. July 28, 2015 at 8:24 am #

    The website behind the link says that the survey already has been taken. Is there perhaps a different link to the start of the survey?

  3. kathy July 28, 2015 at 8:57 am #

    Done and done. I was required to think entirely too early in the day.

  4. Brit July 28, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    I also see a message that the survey has already been taken when I click that link.

  5. Warren July 28, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    Completed it, but was not impressed by it.
    First you had to enter a state of residence, but could write in any country you wanted. So I am in New York, Canada.

    Next the questions were phrased in a way that put the parent’s motives into question. Instead of just asking about the activities specifically.

  6. SOA July 28, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    The one question about the library and the kid being left in the car really was not hard to answer because the weather makes all the difference. Here in the South in the summer that kid would be dead in 30 minutes shut in a hot car even in the shade. But in Fall would probably be fine. Also depends if the kid would get out of the car or not and ask for help. Depends on a lot of things.
    Honestly a lot of these are hard to answer because every kid is different. Some kids are less mature for age and some are more mature for age.

  7. Jeff July 28, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    Most of my answers included the phrase “Kidnapping by ‘legal’ authorities.”

    And ‘depends on the parental perception of child’s maturity’

    Overall not impressed.

  8. SKL July 28, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    Seemed to me that they were trying to catch people showing bias in their risk assessments. For example, if you’re having an affair you’re probably endangering your kid, if you’re helping disabled people you probably aren’t.

  9. Warren July 28, 2015 at 10:43 am #


    My answer for the risk on that one question was.

    “Risk of being caught in the middle of divorce proceedings, when Dad finds out about the affair.”

  10. James Pollock July 28, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    If your browser is secure, the survey doesn’t work.

  11. Coasterfreak July 28, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    I took the survey, but it seems like others who have commented had the opportunity to write in explanations for their answers? I was only able to select a level of risk, not explain how I arrived at my answer.

  12. K July 28, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    Not a fan of the question about the mother leaving her 2 year old to conduct an affair. But maybe that’s what the author of the study is looking for? Nothing is likely to happen to that child, but I still wouldn’t say it’s ok for mom to leave her to go bang the neighbor. I think answers would be different if mom was leaving her for 20 minutes because she had to go to work.

    Coaster freak, my last page was a comment form. I left my impressions there.

  13. Brian July 28, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    To those that got the “survey completed” prior to taking it, it may be due to a limited mobile website. I got that from my phone, but when I reloaded it on a computer I was able to take the survey. I was not able to leave responses to the questions, though.

    As others have pointed out, the survey seems to be less about the risk associated with leaving a child unattended and more about how we react to the reasons that others leave their child(ren) unattended. I also found the methodology a bit lacking. Better would have been to give the situations in which a child was left, have us rate the potential danger, then later note the reasons and situation, then have us rate the morality of the situation.

    I must admit, I rated the affair danger level slightly higher than when the children were left for more “moral” reasons, knowing full well that the reason that a child is unattended has absolutely no correlation to the danger level that the child faces,

    Most of us are willing to forgive a parenting mistake when the reasons behind the mistake are ones that we can understand and/or have done. Then again, when someone is doing something that we feel is inappropriate, we look for every avenue to blame them. Note that the mother was not just having an affair, but was having an affair with her husband’s best friend.

    And while I’m preaching to the choir writing here, we should be trying to divorce our condemnations of the adult from the actions of the parent. Whether or not the parent is rescuing kittens and babies from a fire, or having an orgy with their spouses’ friends, leaving a child in a safely parked car briefly is still safe.

  14. Doug July 28, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    Yeah, not really that impressed with the survey. Risk tolerance filtered through morality isn’t really my thing.

    How about a question “You see a man taking photographs at a playground . . . What’s the risk rating/what’s the unethical rating .”

  15. MichaelF July 28, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    I found it a mesh of immoral choices on the parts of the parents, in some situations, and short lived times of children left in a car in ambiguous situations of risk. As noted, weather and climate can add more to risk of being in a car rather than just noting that a child was left for 15 minutes alone.

    I added my thoughts on this at the comment section at the end, I was unclear on their agenda though especially with the test question and the one about the affair. The massage one I thought was amusing, ok so karate class is over why not bring your daughter with you for a massage? Seems like better family time than sending her off to Starbucks.

  16. Joanne July 28, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Had same issue as Jens & Brit (thanks for posting – feels better knowing I’m not only one having issues with link) – will try again later on laptop as suggested by Brian (thanks for tip)

    Wonder how many others had issues with link from cell? Everyone uses cell – why wouldn’t link be “mobile-friendly”?

  17. John July 28, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    Has anyone else here noticed that ALL of the children in her hypothetical examples of unsupervised children were little girls? Not one little boy was mentioned unless there was a little boy with a girl’s name which I doubt. Because the names of the children mentioned in the 6 situations were, Dorothy, Grace, Susie, Olivia, Jenny and Cassidy but I didn’t see a Jason or a Joshua or a Matthew or a Jacob or a John or a Tyler, etc., etc.

    Perhaps this could take away some of the validity of that survey. Are we more concerned about leaving little girls unsupervised than we are little boys? OR could it mean that it is a forgone conclusion that little boys should never be left alone because they’re not strong and responsible enough and the controversy only surrounds little girls?

    Just food for thought. Personally I think the survey should have been more balanced.

  18. DrTorch July 28, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    Following up John’s comment, was there a male specifically mentioned at all in any of the vignettes?

  19. Steve July 28, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    The lead researcher AND the faculty sponsor are both women.

    I tend to think women are more likely than men to see a risk as dangerous.

  20. Doug July 28, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    @Dr. Torch – Yes, there was a male, but only introduced as an adulterer who was meeting the mother.

  21. SKL July 28, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    Well, I rated the one in the affair a 2 and the one in the parking garage a 1, but that was because the first one was outdoors “in the shade” and as we know, the sun moves and shade moves with it. Many’s the time I’ve parked in the shade only to return to a hot car. Also it was 30 minutes vs. 15 and the kid was awake and old enough to get himself into mischief. I still think the risk is low though.

    I do think we have bias when we rate risks. And it would be interesting to have a good study prove this. However, I think this survey misses the mark. Nice thought, though.

  22. SKL July 28, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

    “I tend to think women are more likely than men to see a risk as dangerous.”

    I think it depends on the risk. It may also depend on whether it’s his son or his daughter he’s talking about.

    My dad was way more risk averse with us girls, especially past the little kid stage. It used to make me so mad.

  23. Steve July 28, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    When I saved the PDF about this study, the subject line automatically came up as “FRK_1.”

    This makes me wonder — Is this study about how the Free Range Community being comprised of people who allow their kids to do dangerous things compared to Normal Parents (who care more for the safety of their children?)

    Lenore, do you know how many OTHER groups of people are being asked to take this study?
    It would have been a better study if they had asked you (Lenore) to create the questions they used.

  24. K July 28, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    It seems that there were different versions of the survey, so I bet they are trying to judge how morality influences how we perceive the parents’ choices (which hadn’t occurred to me until I read the comments here after finishing the survey). The survey I took had a mom leaving a 6-year-old to have an affair, not a 2-year-old, and a mom sending her 8-year-old to Starbucks so she could work, not so she could get a massage.

  25. D's Squirrel Food July 28, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    Making all the children girls is good methodology – you don’t want your results confounded by sex. And it sounds like the mother’s reasons were randomly matched to the child’s situation. For example, in my survey, the mom having the affair left her kid at Starbucks.

  26. Kimberly July 28, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    @ K

    I agree. My Starbuck’s question involved an 8 year old and a mother volunteering to read at a retirement home. My affair question involved (if I remember correctly) a 2 1/2 year old.

  27. SKL July 28, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

    That’s interesting, so they are randomly matching up reasons, ages, and actions and seeing how the answers change.

    I thought “to get a massage” was a dumb reason to send your kid to Starbucks for 45 minutes, but I still didn’t think there was any danger. 😛 Then again, there are times when my getting a massage might be the best thing I can do for my kids. 😛

  28. Kimberly July 28, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

    Also, I question the veracity of the “test questions” where I was instructed to place a score of 7. The question itself was super vague, though not at all considered “risky” by my standards. The hopeful person in me believes that these questions are just to make sure that people are reading the questions, answering them thoughtfully, and not some bot. The skeptic in me is hoping that they won’t be used to skew the test results.

  29. Lucy Kemnitzer July 28, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    Three questions I ranked as “no risk” I was required to explain what the risk was. Likewise the test question where I was required to enter “7” was, I thought, a high-risk situation (a 3 year old alone at a fair for 4 hours), and if it was only a test question why was I required to describe the risk anyway?

    I thought the quiz was confusing and misleading for these reasons.

  30. Steve July 28, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

    Kimberly said:

    “Also, I question the veracity of the “test questions” where I was instructed to place a score of 7…”


    I did not do the survey, but wonder about what you said regarding “Instructed to place a score of 7.”

    In a book called ” Predictably Irrational,” (pgs. 27-29) by social psychologist and researcher, Dan Ariely, he describes experiments where numbers could subconsciously act as an anchor and influence the answers of those participating in the experiments.

    So, if ANY numbers appear in this questionaire, it could act as an anchor and subconsciously “cause” you to give a higher or lower risk factor.

  31. MichelleB July 28, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    I rated playing in the park while mom was having an affair as risky because if Mom is having a secret affair, how is anyone going to find her if there’s a problem.

  32. Ceridwen July 28, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    I was going to put a higher risk on the affair question (mine was the karate class was cancelled, the kid was around 8, mom sent the kid to Starbucks to read The Hunger Games – oy, do 8 year olds read those books?) because of the clandestine nature of Mom’s absence, then I remembered cell phones. Unless Mom’s an all-around sleazebag, she’ll have her phone on, in case of emergency.

    I also hesitated at the woman being hit by a car with the child playing in the park for several minutes (15 or 25, don’t recall which now, but it was under half an hour) before Mom woke up and alerted emergency staff to her child at the park. (On a slight tangent, wasn’t that the premise of a Shirley Temple movie? *google* Yes, it was called Bright Eyes, 1934, though her mother dies. /tangent.) I also rated that one lowest, as the child was 6 or 7 and playing contentedly.

    Most of the questions I got mentioned the weather or surrounding conditions when the child was left in a car (cool day under a shade tree; cool underground garage,) making it easier to decide whether it was more or less dangerous. In fact, I only rated two questions at 2, none above, except for the test question, which, I assume, wanted to gauge whether I understood how to use the slider – though, they did the same thing on the intro / demographics page.

    My comments on the last page: I thought they were doing the study because of the recent news items about parents being prosecuted for their parenting styles / no idea on which side of the equation the researchers fell; I thought that, being older than most parents, I saw very little wrong with any of the scenarios presented to me, and I thought that the reason for leaving the child alone – adultery v. a security check v. reading to children at the local library – had nothing to do with the child’s safety.

  33. Nicole July 29, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    I actually didn’t even notice that it was all girls, but did notice it was all moms. Contrary to a comment above, I find dads actually more risk averse/protective than moms, but that’s just anecdotal. I did think they were looking at both risk of leaving kids alone with age, versus how we moralize. I personally may make different decisions depending on my reasons, but would never assume a higher level of risk based on what the absent parent was doing, or assign more blame. If the parents was too drunk to drive home in an emergency or something that might be different, but an affair versus reading to seniors at the library or work? Certainly none of my business. I’ve left kids alone so I would not have to cancel social plans. We do so love to judge don’t we, even this survey 🙂

  34. James Pollock July 29, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    “I actually didn’t even notice that it was all girls, but did notice it was all moms.”
    Yes, there IS a bit of an assumption that “single parent” and “single mom” are interchangeable. (In other words, if a single person is doing the parenting, it’s the childrens’ mother). This is not true..

    “Contrary to a comment above, I find dads actually more risk averse/protective than moms”
    Contrary to this comment, I find that it varies widely, with sometimes the mom being way more risk averse than the dad, sometimes the mom and dad being about the same, and sometimes the dad being way more risk averse than the mom. Mix in varying opinions of step-parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, along with varying degrees of weight placed on their opinions, and it becomes FAR too randomized to make generalized pronouncements.

    I’m critical of some things in general but try to refrain from being critical in specific cases unless I think I actually know enough about the specific case… something a LOT of people have trouble doing. (and I slip a little, bit, from time to time.)

  35. Donna July 29, 2015 at 4:32 pm #

    I looked at the survey twice because I read comments here that indicated very different questions than I answered at first. They are variously matching up reasons and ages of children in the different scenarios. The point is obviously to show how the reason impacts our assessment of risk. Obviously the risk to an 8 year old in Starbucks is the same whether the mother is having an affair, getting a massage or going to work, but some view it as more risky when the mother is doing something frivolous or immoral than if she is doing something worthwhile.

  36. Larry July 29, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    If it only takes you five minutes, then you must think and type a lot faster than I do. I didn’t time it, but I think it took me 30-45 minutes. The disclaimer page does say something like up to an hour.

    Agreed that mixing in morality vastly complicates the research. Oh, after reading your comments, I see that that was probably the point.

    I got “having a 30-minute affair” paired with “4-year-old in locked car in the shade”. I questioned the unpredictability of timing in an affair (30 minutes is rather quick) coupled with relying on shade to keep a car comfortable and the kid being reluctant to open the door because of the car alarm. At least with my car, if it’s locked from the outside and opened from the inside, the alarm goes off.

    I did realize that all kids and parents were female, but I thought it was to remove variables from the research.

    In mine, in the “choose 7” item, the girl’s name was Dorothy, so I wrote down risks such as being taken away by a tornado, and her little dog, too, along with tooth decay and obesity from eating cotton candy for four hours every Tuesday. 🙂

  37. Susan July 29, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    I started this survey but didn’t finish it because it was horrible (imo). The situations were not free range they were negligent. For example, the woman who dropped her kid off while she went and had a secret affair…. this is not the same scenario as a child the same age at their neighborhood park, knowing mom or dad is home and how to get there, and having practiced the route, etc. This scenario is not the same since mom just dropped kid at a random park and didn’t even tell the child she was gone… what? Is this what these researchers think free range is all about?

  38. James Pollock July 29, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

    ” Is this what these researchers think free range is all about?”

    Either the children are left to make their own decisions, or they aren’t. Either the kids have been properly prepared to make those decisions, or they haven’t.

    Everything else is extraneous.

  39. Alex July 30, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    I took the survey but didn’t much like it.

    First, it was odd how they asked questions about what they were trying to prove. I commented that I hope they weren’t set on “proving” anything but rather had a genuine curiosity in the results of the survey and would draw reasonably conclusions from that.

    Second, I didn’t like the question that had an actual situation (and the standard 2 parts) and asked us to put “7”. It was the most dangerous situation presented, yes, but regardless it’s just weird to tell us to put 7. I guess they were making sure (1) we weren’t a bot and (2) we could read and reply to instructions properly. But as for #2, it certainly would help if they made those instructions more clear themselves! 😛

    I also find it odd how they didn’t include a situation with a 10 or 12 year old walking or biking to school or to a friend’s house. Or have alternate forms of questions for different ages. For example, they could change the kid watching Frozen to 5, to 7, or to 9 and see what different results they get for the different ages.

    There was just a lot more they could do with this. And given how anyone is free to take the survey, I doubt the results will be very scientific anyway.

    Nevertheless, I do await the results.