Parental travel behaviours and children's independent mobility: A multi-site study


Introduction: Children who are allowed greater independent mobility (IM) are more physically active. This study investigated associations between parents' current travel mode to work, their own IM and school travel mode as a child, and their child's IM. Methods: Grade 4-6 children were recruited from urban, suburban, and rural schools in Vancouver, Ottawa and Trois-Rivières. Parents reported their current travel mode to work, IM, and school travel mode as a child. Children self-reported their IM based on Hillman's six mobility licenses, which were used to construct an IM index from 0 to 6. The analytic sample included 1699 children and multiple imputation was performed to replace missing data. Gender-stratified generalized linear mixed models were adjusted for child age, parent gender, urbanization, and school-area socioeconomic status. Results: The older a parent was allowed to travel alone as a child, the less IM their child had (boys: ?=-0.09, 95% CI=-0.13, -0.05; girls: ?=-0.08, CI=-0.12, -0.05). Girls whose parents biked to work (?=0.49, CI=0.11, 0.86) or lived in Trois-Rivières vs. other sites (?=0.83, CI=-0.43, 1.22) had higher IM. IM increased with each year of age (boys: ?=0.47, CI=0.35, 0.59; girls: ?=0.39, CI=0.29, 0.48). Boys' IM was lower if their mother was the respondent (?=-0.28, 95% CI=-0.54, -0.01). Discussion: Parents' travel mode to work may relate to their children's IM to a greater extent than their travel mode as a child. Parents who experienced IM later may be more restrictive of their child's IM; interventions should address this potential barrier to IM.