Development and validation of a self-administered questionnaire to estimate the distance and mode of children's travel to school in urban India

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2015 Oct 28;15:92. doi: 10.1186/s12874-015-0086-y.


Background: Although some 300 million Indian children travel to school every day, little is known about how they get there. This information is important for transport planners and public health authorities. This paper presents the development of a self-administered questionnaire and examines its reliability and validity in estimating distance and mode of travel to school in a low resource urban setting.

Methods: We developed a questionnaire on children's travel to school. We assessed test re-test reliability by repeating the questionnaire one week later (n = 61). The questionnaire was improved and re-tested (n = 68). We examined the convergent validity of distance estimates by comparing estimates based on the nearest landmark to children's homes with a 'gold standard' based on one-to-one interviews with children using detailed maps (n = 50).

Results: Most questions showed fair to almost perfect agreement. Questions on usual mode of travel (κ 0.73- 0.84) and road injury (κ 0.61- 0.72) were found to be more reliable than those on parental permissions (κ 0.18- 0.30), perception of safety (κ 0.00- 0.54), and physical activity (κ -0.01- 0.07). The distance estimated by the nearest landmark method was not significantly different than the in-depth method for walking , 52 m [95 % CI -32 m to 135 m], 10 % of the mean difference, and for walking and cycling combined, 65 m [95 % CI -30 m to 159 m], 11 % of the mean difference. For children who used motorized transport (excluding private school bus), the nearest landmark method under-estimated distance by an average of 325 metres [95 % CI -664 m to 1314 m], 15 % of the mean difference.

Conclusions: A self-administered questionnaire was found to provide reliable information on the usual mode of travel to school, and road injury, in a small sample of children in Hyderabad, India. The 'nearest landmark' method can be applied in similar low-resource settings, for a reasonably accurate estimate of the distance from a child's home to school.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • India
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Schools
  • Self Report
  • Students
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Transportation / methods*
  • Travel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Population