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Open Access Research article

Young adolescents' independent mobility, related factors and association with transport to school. A cross-sectional study

Klara Johansson*, Marie Hasselberg and Lucie Laflamme

Author Affiliations

Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Global Health/IHCAR, Karolinska Institutet, Nobels väg 9, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:635  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-635

Published: 22 October 2010

Abstract

Background

Children's independent mobility differs between groups of adolescents, but knowledge is lacking on how mobility-limiting factors interact. This study explores the association between factors that can affect young adolescents' mobility, searching for typical patterns within a geographical area where mobility is both relatively high and promoted (in this case Stockholm County, Sweden). An additional question is how clusters of limiting factors and demographic attributes relate to active commuting to school.

Methods

A sample of 7th grade students (ca 13-14 years old) in Stockholm County, Sweden, answered a survey (n = 1008). A cluster analysis was performed on variables descriptive of the respondents and of potential limitations to their independent mobility, such as fears, coping, traffic situation in the neighbourhood and parent/child opinions on mobility (18 variables and 50 categories). Active commuting to/from school was compared using proportion (with 95% confidence intervals) by cluster.

Results

Five consistent and distinct clusters were identified. Among the most discriminating factors were fears experienced in the neighbourhood, strategies to cope with fear, type of housing and traffic environment. Girls were over-represented in the two clusters most typical of respondents experiencing fears (either several of these or darkness in particular) and boys in two others where housing (house vs. apartment) and neighbourhood conditions played a more determinant role. The proportion of active commuting among respondents was quite similar over clusters but was nonetheless higher in the cluster (over girls) reporting more fears and other factors limiting mobility.

Conclusions

Whereas fears - and coping - are more typical of adolescent girls in the formation of the clusters, household and neighbourhood characteristics are more typical of boys. Broadly speaking, there seem to be two groups of girls with fears but these differ based on types of fear, ways of coping with fear and their living conditions. The association between the limitations to mobility and active commuting is unclear, the latter being higher among those disclosing a broader range of limiting factors, including fears.