Examining how children's gender influences parents’ perceptions of the local environment and their influence on children's independent mobility
Wellbeing, Space and Society
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Physical inactivity among children is a public health concern. Children's ability to travel independently is associated with increased physical activity and social connectedness. Consequently, it is concerning that children's independent mobility has decreased in recent years. Studies have highlighted that rates of independent mobility vary by gender; this study analyzed how correlates of independent mobility vary between boys (n = 476) and girls (n = 618) attending 32 elementary schools in Southwestern Ontario. Hierarchical logistic regression modeling methods were used. All analyzes were stratified by gender. For boys, age was negatively associated with travel with peers. Having one or more siblings of any age was associated with increased travel with peers and having one or more older/same siblings decreased the likelihood of travel alone. Parents’ perceptions of the journey being too far/taking too much time was negatively associated with boys’ traveling alone. In comparison, age was positively associated with traveling alone for girls. Having one or more younger or older/same siblings were associated with decreased traveling alone, while older/same age siblings were positively associated with traveling with peers. Distance was negatively associated with both traveling with peers and alone. For girls, parents’ perceptions of the journey between home and school being easier to drive and having enough walking trails in the neighbourhood were negatively associated with travel alone and with peers, respectively. The findings of this study can aid in informing future interventions targeting children's school travel and help address inequities in independent mobility between boys and girls.