What Influences Parents’ Fear about Children’s Independent Mobility? Evidence from a State-Wide Survey of Australian Parents

Shannon K. Bennetts, Amanda R. Cooklin, Sharinne Crawford, Fabrizio D’Esposito, Naomi J. Hackworth, Julie Green, Jan Matthews, Lyndall Strazdins, Stephen R. Zubrick, Jan M. Nicholson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To identify factors associated with generalized and stranger-specific parental fear (PF) about children’s independent mobility (CIM), a critical aspect of physical activity. Design: Cross-sectional survey; random sampling frame, minimum quotas of fathers, rural residents. Setting: State of Victoria, Australia. Subjects: Parents of children aged 9 to 15 years (n = 1779), 71% response rate. Measures: Validated measures of PF and fear of strangers (FoS); parent, child, social, and environmental factors. Analysis: Unadjusted and adjusted linear regression stratified by child age (9-10; 11-13; 14-15). Results: Adjusted models explained a substantial proportion of variance across all age groups (PF: 33.6%-36.7%; FoS: 39.1%-44.0%). Perceived disapproval from others was consistently associated with both outcomes (PF: β =.11 to 23, p ≤.05; FoS: β =.17-.21, p ≤.001) as was parents’ perception of children’s competence to travel safely (PF: β = −.24 to −.11, p ≤.05; FoS: β = −.16 to −.13, p ≤.01). Factors associated with FoS included having a female child (β = −.21 to −.13, p ≤.001), language other than English (β =.09 to.11, p ≤.01), and low levels of parent education (β = −.14 to −08, p ≤.05). Conclusion: The current study suggests that social norms, child competence, and perceptions about the benefits of CIM underpin PF. This evidence informs the development of interventions to reduce PF and promote CIM and children’s physical activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-676
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • children’s independent mobility
  • children’s physical activity
  • children’s safety
  • parental fear
  • parenting

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