Background: Over the last three decades, there have been dramatic changes in the independence and mobility of school-age children, compared to prior generations. A few decades ago, a majority of children routinely roamed their neighborhoods and walked or biked to school and other destinations. Today, parents chauffeur their children to nearly all their activities, often under the pressure of multiple family obligations or out of fear for their safety. In order to encourage active commuting among school-age children, it is critical to understand how parents’ views and concerns influence commuting practices.
Methods: We examined parents’ views on active commuting and their association with children’s actual commuting practices. We analyzed parents’ survey responses (N=63,078) collected in October 2010 from the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program in California.
Results: Children whose parents viewed active commuting as fun, healthy, or encouraged by their child’s school were around three times more likely to actively commute than those whose parents did not hold these views. Children whose parents were open to allowing their child to actively commute if their safety and convenience concerns were addressed were as much two times more likely to actively commute than those whose parents were not open to this change.
Conclusions: Parental views on active modes of school transport play a key role in children’s commuting practices. A more thorough investigation of their perspectives could inform community health and transportation policies action and increase parental support for SRTS efforts, thus help implement successful and sustainable programs.
Safe Routes to School, active mobility, parental views, childhood obesity prevention
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