The Effect of the Social and Physical Environment on Children’s Independent Mobility to Neighborhood Destinations

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Hayley E. Christian
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Charlotte D. Klinker
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Karen Villanueva
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Matthew W. Knuiman
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Sarah A. Foster
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Stephan R. Zubrick
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Mark Divitini
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Lisa Wood
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Billie Giles-Corti
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Background:

Relationships between context-specific measures of the physical and social environment and children’s independent mobility to neighborhood destination types were examined.

Methods:

Parents in RESIDE’s fourth survey reported whether their child (8–15 years; n = 181) was allowed to travel without an adult to school, friend’s house, park and local shop. Objective physical environment measures were matched to each of these destinations. Social environment measures included neighborhood perceptions and items specific to local independent mobility.

Results:

Independent mobility to local destinations ranged from 30% to 48%. Independent mobility to a local park was less likely as the distance to the closest park (small and large size) increased and less likely with additional school grounds (P < .05). Independent mobility to school was less likely as the distance to the closest large park increased and if the neighborhood was perceived as unsafe (P < .05). Independent mobility to a park or shops decreased if parenting social norms were unsupportive of children’s local independent movement (P < .05).

Conclusions:

Independent mobility appears dependent upon the specific destination being visited and the impact of neighborhood features varies according to the destination examined. Findings highlight the importance of access to different types and sizes of urban green space for children’s independent mobility to parks.

Christian (hayley.christian@uwa.edu.au) is with the Centre for the Built Environment and Health, School of Population Health, and Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Klinker is with the Dept of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark. Villanueva and Giles-Corti are with the McCaughey VicHealth Community Wellbeing Unit, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia. Foster is with the Centre for the Built Environment and Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Knuiman, Divitini, and Wood are with the School of Population Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Zubrick is with the Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.

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