Context-Specific Correlates of Walking Behaviors to and From School: Do They Vary Across Neighborhoods and Populations?

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Xuemei Zhu
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Chanam Lee
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Oi-Man Kwok
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James W. Varni
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Background:

A growing number of studies have examined correlates of walking-to/from-school behaviors. However, the potential differences across neighborhoods have been understudied. To address this knowledge gap, this study compared 4 elementary school settings (low-income inner-city; mid- to low-income, urban with and without freeway in attendance area; and high-income suburban) in Austin, Texas.

Methods:

Parental surveys (n = 680, response rate = 25%) were analyzed using binary logistic regressions to identify correlates of walking to/from school for each setting. Five focus groups were conducted with 15 parents and analyzed using content analysis to supplement the survey results.

Results:

Parents’ personal barrier was the only consistently significant variable across 4 settings (OR = 0.113−0.463, P < .05). Parental education showed contrasting results between the suburban setting (OR = 3.895, P < .01) and the urban setting with freeway presence (OR = 0.568, P < .05). Personal attitude and walking habit had lower explanatory power in lower-income settings than in the higher-income site. But sociodemographic, physical environment, and safety conditions had greater explanatory power in lower-income settings. Freeway barrier was significant in the inner-city setting (OR = 0.029, P < .05) and the urban setting with freeway presence (OR = 0.142, P < .05).

Conclusions:

Significant differences in correlates of walking-to/from-school behaviors were found across the 4 elementary school settings, suggesting the importance of context-sensitive approaches in future research and practice.

xuliZhu is with the Dept of Architecture, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX. Lee is with the Dept of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX. Kwok is with the Dept of Educational Psychology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX. Varni is with the Dept of Pediatrics and the Dept of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.

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