Objective: To identify independent factors associated with caregiver supervision levels at beaches. Methods: Children (aged 1-14 years) engaged in beach play and their caregivers were observed at Australian beaches during September-April, 2008/09. Caregiver, child, and environmental factor data were collected and recorded on a validated observation instrument. The main outcome of interest was a continuous measure of supervision. After adjusting for potential clustering by beach/state, multivariable linear regression was used to identify independent factors associated with caregiver supervision. Results: Four independent predictors of supervision and one interaction effect (child age by the caregiver and child position on beach) were identified. Caregivers who were supervising from a different position to where the child was playing were less likely to provide high supervision, as were older caregivers (>35 years) compared to younger caregivers (≤34 years). Compared to children playing alone, children playing with one, or two or more others were less likely to receive high supervision, and children aged 1-4 years were likely to receive higher supervision than older children. Conclusion: This study provides new knowledge about underlying factors associated with the level of caregiver supervision in beach settings. Future studies should continue to explore independent predictors of supervision so that effective programmes, which focus on caregiver supervision, can be targeted to address poor supervision practices.
Worldwide, epidemiological data indicate that children are a high-risk group for drowning and while progress has been made in understanding toddler drownings, there is a lack of empirical evidence regarding the drowning risk and protective factors inherent for adolescents and young adults. This study used a self-report questionnaire to establish swimming and water safety knowledge and attitudes of young adults and objectively measured their actual swimming ability using formal practical testing procedures. Participants then completed a short, 12-week intervention that encompassed swimming, survival and rescue skills, along with water safety knowledge applicable to a range of aquatic environments. Knowledge, attitudes and swimming ability were then re-measured following the intervention to evaluate its effectiveness. The Wilcoxon matched pairs signed ranks test was performed to detect whether there were significant differences between knowledge, attitude and swim ability scores pre-intervention and post-intervention. A total of 135 participants completed the baseline and follow up questionnaire and all practical testing. Results indicated that these young adults had a very low level of water safety knowledge pre-intervention, although the majority had sound swimming and water safety skills and attitudes. Overall, significant improvements were evident in knowledge (p < 0.001) and swim ability (p < 0.001) post-intervention, although no changes were observed in attitudes (p = 0.079). Previous participation in formal swimming lessons and/or swimming within the school curriculum had no significant impact on water safety knowledge, skills or attitudes of these young adults, and there were few significant gender differences. While it is important to conduct further studies to confirm that these findings are consistent with a more representative sample of young adults, our findings are the first to provide empirical evidence of the value of a comprehensive aquatic education program as a drowning prevention strategy for young adults.