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Children's Independent Mobility: Survey in French Brittany (2011)

Abstract : The general objective of this study is to investigate how children's independent mobility develops between age 7-15. The degree of independent mobility is assessed through the examination of children's statements about six licences related to outside trips without adult supervision. The objective is to provide a detailed picture of the current state of independent mobility in primary and secondary school children of French Brittany (North-West of France). In this respect, the study contributes to an international survey carried out in 16 countries (Shaw & Watson, 2010). The international survey was initiated by the Political Study Institute of London as an extended geographical replication of the original study of Hillman & al (1990). Method A total of 947 children participated in the French survey. Specifically, in primary school 484 children--48,8% girls, 51,2% boys--filled up the questionnaire, age ranging from 6 to 12, mean = 8,79 (sd =1,27). In secondary school 463 young people--49,7% girls, 50,3% boys--responded to the questionnaire, age ranging from 10 to 16, mean = 12,9 (sd =1,29). The survey was conducted in different types of living environment varying in relation to the size and density of the dwelling area. Five types of areas were considered: (1) inner district of a major city, (2) suburban area of a major city, (3) small town, (4) rural market town and (5) rural area. In the French survey, the five types of areas were selected in the same region, namely the district (département) of Ille-et-Vilaine in French Brittany. Therefore, the survey design, which gathered data from different types of areas, was likely to provide a comprehensive picture of the independent mobility of the children living in that particular region. Children's independent mobility was assessed through the examination of six licences: (1) Licence to cross roads alone, (2) Licence to travel to and from school alone, (3) Licence to go on their own to places other than school, (4) Licence to cycle on main roads, (5) Licence to use buses, (6) Licence to go out after dark. Results The comparison of the licences granted by parents to Psc and to Ssc reveals marked difference for all the six licences. This denotes important changes in the parental attitude towards these children's independent mobility within the considered age range. Interestingly the hierarchy of the six licences is almost the same for the two groups. For both groups the licence to cross main roads is the most frequently granted, whereas licence to go out after dark is the least granted. Even in the secondary school, only a few French children are allowed to go out after dark. The analysis of the children's responses also puts forward that independent mobility develop markedly after 11 years when children are in secondary school. Specifically, four of the six licences are held by a large majority of the secondary school children: to go to other places than school on their own, to cross main roads, to use public transport, and to cycle on main roads. However, only one third of these older children declared to go to and from school on their own. This result is probably due to the size of the secondary school catchment areas which were particularly large in four of the five survey areas. Therefore, the distances from the children's homes to secondary school constrained the older children to use the school bus or to be driven by their parents. The primary school children's independent mobility is particularly restricted; four of the six licences examined were hold by less than one third of these children. The licence to go to other places than school is the most frequently mentioned by the 7-to-11-year olds. But only half of primary school children can benefit from such a basic and critical licence that can be seen as a prerequisite to the development of activities independently from adults in the dwelling area. For the other half of the primary school children, this result supports the idea that most out-of-school activities are likely to take place in adult-controlled settings, where children must be accompanied by their parents. Both primary and secondary school children claim to have a particular licence more often than parents declare to grant their children that licence. The differences between children's and parents' responses are particularly obvious as regard to the licence to ride on main roads and, to a lesser degree, the licence to go out after dark. A cluster analysis permitted to isolate five contrasted types of independent mobility defined by various combinations of licences ranging from a quasi-total dependent mobility to the largest independent mobility. Age is the principal factor significantly associated with each of the five clusters, whereas gender is only associated to one cluster. The type of area and the children's perception of safety in their local area also seem to account for the nature and degree of independent mobility. Overall, these results support the view that a complex array of factors intervenes in the development of children independent mobility, including environmental attributes of the living context such as city size, density and outdoor urban facilities.
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Alain Legendre, Enora Ripaud, Elodie Brisset, Olivier David, Lucie Kostrzewa, et al.. Children's Independent Mobility: Survey in French Brittany (2011). 2013. ⟨halshs-00857232⟩

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