Children's independent mobility (CIM) is considered as a determining criterion of child-friendly built environment (BE). Researchers have made a substantial effort to identify the characteristics of the BE that affect CIM and thereby to inform city policy to promote CIM. Although the findings from these studies are useful to inform context specific CIM policy, together they provide inconclusive results. This study made a first attempt to draw a generalised conclusion through a meta-analysis of existing knowledge base. The analysis was conducted using primary studies reporting 13 BE-CIM links and published between 1980 and 2016. Overall effect size (ES), directions, and consistency of each link were calculated, also stratified by contexts, using the reported results from the primary studies and based on a random effect model. The results show that four BE factors (dead-end street, % of residential land, % of commercial land, and residential location type) have a positive association with CIM; traffic volume has a neutral association; and the remaining eight factors (vehicular street width, road density, intersection density, major road proportion, land use mix, availability of recreational facilities, residential density, and distance to destination) have a negative association. Living in a dead end street was found to have the strongest positive ES (0.352), with moderate level of consistency across the primary studies. In contrast, land use mix has the strongest negative ES (− 0.212) but with the highest level of inconsistency. Both ESs and consistencies, however, vary between developing and developed country contexts. Diversity in contexts, research design, and measurement instruments across the primary studies contributed to the heterogeneous results. The findings of this research serve as a guide for practitioners and researcher alike to make an informed decision about the BE factors that consistently foster or hinder CIM in different contexts.
- Built environment (BE)
- Children's independent mobility (CIM)
- Land use pattern
- Street design