Stepping out: Children negotiating independent travel

August 14, 2013, University of Melbourne

A two-year study has revealed the final years of primary school are critical for developing children's confidence and independence to travel without their parents in their communities.

The Stepping Out study conducted by the University of Melbourne and VicHealth aimed to increase understanding of how children negotiate independent , and to find ways to encourage children to walk independently and foster health and wellbeing.

The study explored children's perspectives by walking and talking with them as they negotiated daily travel journeys, in addition to speaking with class groups, . The study worked with 48 children across three schools in the local government area of Moreland in Victoria, during 2011 and 2012.

The children in the study were aged 10-12 – a transitional age in social and educational terms, representing the shift from primary to secondary school.

By late primary level, children are preparing for the transition to secondary school, and which often requires traveling further from home using varied modes of transport.

Dr Lisa Gibbs from the School of Population and Global Health said there was a range of traffic safety measures, as well as school education and active travel programs already in place.

"However, our findings suggest there are a number of other ways families, schools and communities are able to support children's development of mobile independence," she said.

"We identified a range of shared characteristics in children able to travel in their neighbourhood without . Children will travel with friends or relatives and choose busier routes and at popular times to provide visibility in ," he said.

Dr Bjorn Nansen from Computing and Information Systems at Melbourne also observed the role of new portable technologies. "Many children now have mobile phones that provide a sense of security. This too makes an impact on how children negotiate their travel."

The findings suggest that parents can help support children's transitioning to independent travel through stages such as walking with children early on, then slowly releasing the tether to allow them to walk ahead, to walk with friends or siblings, practicing new routes together, setting rules about routes, having children carry a mobile phone, and finally allowing children to travel without adults.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said: "When you consider that two-thirds of children in Victoria are now driven to school even though they live less than two kilometres away, it's no wonder that one in four are overweight or obese. That's a massive increase from just one in 20 in the 1960s.

"VicHealth is really interested in what is driving this phenomenon and Dr Gibbs' research provides a positive anecdote to the so-called 'cotton-wool kids' phenomenon by offering parents advice on how to get their kids walking more often."

Explore further: Research throws new light on why children with autism are often bullied

Related Stories

Research throws new light on why children with autism are often bullied

August 7, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A study of hundreds of teachers and parents of children on the autistic spectrum has revealed factors why they are more or less likely to be bullied.

Children of same sex attracted parents score high on health and wellbeing

June 7, 2013
Australian children of same-sex couples fared better on average than families from the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion, but continue to be subject to discrimination, interim findings of ...

Most children experience their neighbourhoods from the back seat of the car, researchers find

October 23, 2012
At a time when childhood obesity rates are on the rise, Deakin University research has found that parents prefer to play chauffeur than let their children walk or ride to school or around the local neighbourhood.

Urban children are healthier commuters than rural teens

July 4, 2011
The children most likely to walk or cycle to school live in urban areas, with a single parent, and in an economically disadvantaged home, according to survey results that were published in Pediatrics today by Dr. Roman Pabayo ...

Tool kit answers mental health and epilepsy questions for parents

August 12, 2013
Parents of children with epilepsy and mental health problems have a new go-to resource.

Recommended for you

Number of older people with four or more diseases will double by 2035, say researchers

January 23, 2018
A study published today in Age and Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, reports that the number of older people diagnosed with four or more diseases will double between 2015 and 2035. A third ...

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.