The impact of parents' fear of strangers and perceptions of informal social control on children's independent mobility

Health Place. 2014 Mar;26:60-8. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2013.11.006. Epub 2013 Dec 12.


Declines in children's independent mobility are commonly attributed to parents' fear of strangers, yet few empirical studies have investigated this relationship. We examined: (1) the impact of parents' fear of strangers on children's independent mobility; and (2) whether informal social control (i.e., parents' confidence that other residents would look out for local children) mitigated any association. Gender stratified logistic regression models tested these associations for 10-12 year-olds and their parents (n=1231) in Perth, Australia. For girls, parental fear of strangers was associated with lower odds of independent mobility (OR=0.71, p=0.002), and informal social control and other social and built environment variables had little attenuating influence. This pattern was consistent for boys; however odds ratios were lower and statistical significance weaker. Initiatives that target parental fears combined with interventions that normalise children's walking may help increase independent mobility.

Keywords: Children; Independent mobility; Parental fear; Physical activity; Stranger danger.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environment Design
  • Exercise
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parenting
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Safety
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Social Control, Informal*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Victoria