Young and free? A study of independent mobility among urban and rural dwelling Australian children

J Sci Med Sport. 2012 Nov;15(6):505-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2012.03.005. Epub 2012 Apr 11.


Objectives: To examine urban/rural differences in children's independent mobility; associations between mobility licences and children's independent mobility; and potential correlates of mobility licences.

Design: Cross-sectional study of 430 primary (48% boys; 72% urban) and 258 secondary schoolchildren (52% boys; 51.6% urban) and their parents.

Methods: Parents survey reported the mobility licences they granted to their children (e.g. allowing them to cross main roads on their own), access to outdoor playspaces and mobile phone ownership. Children survey reported their independent mobility on school journeys and on weekends. Differences were examined in mobility licences and independent mobility by sex, urban/rural setting and age-group. Regression analyses examined associations between mobility licences and independent mobility; and how access to playspaces, and mobile phone ownership, were associated with mobility licences.

Results: Overall, on average, boys were granted more mobility licences, than were girls, but there were no significant differences by urban/rural location. Variations in independent mobility by urban/rural locality were identified on the school journey but not on weekends. Boys attending urban primary schools had highest rates (44%) of walking/cycling independently to school; those attending rural secondary schools had the lowest (14%). Among urban boys and rural primary school-aged girls access to outdoor playspaces was associated with mobility licences. Mobile phone ownership was associated with mobility licences only among boys attending urban primary schools.

Conclusions: Many Australian children in urban and rural areas lack independent mobility. Further research should examine social/physical environmental influences on parental restrictions, to inform interventions that aim to promote children's independent mobility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Bicycling / statistics & numerical data
  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Schools / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Environment
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data