Children’s Active Transportation to School: the Role of Parental Perceptions, Social Connections, and the Neighbourhood Environment in the Success of a Walking School Bus Program
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During the 2010-11 school year, KFL&A Public Health partnered with Lancaster Drive Public School (LDPS) to develop and implement a Walking School Bus Program (WSBP). This study was designed as a pre-test post-test study to explore parental concerns and attitudes towards their children’s use of active transportation and the WSBP, perceptions of the social and built environment, and how these may be associated with parental willingness to allow their children to participate in the WSBP. However, a low response rate did not allow comparisons of pre- and post-test results. Therefore, this thesis uses the pre-test data as a pilot study to evaluate the methods, tools, and feasibility of a future, multi-school pre-and post-test study. As part of the pilot study, a questionnaire was developed and administered to 298 households. Parental willingness was assessed using one item rated on a 10-point scale. Concerns and attitudes were assessed from similar scales developed for this study. Social environment perceptions were measured using a neighbourhood collective efficacy scale and a name generator/interpreter social network instrument. Multinomial logistic regression analyses were conducted to assess the association of parental willingness with the aforementioned variables. Fifty parents participated, which may have contributed to low power to detect associations. However, even with low power, attitudes of parents whose children had already used active transportation to school were found to be significantly associated with willingness when contrasting high and low levels (OR: 1.61, 95%CI: 1.02-2.54). This association did not appear in parents of children who used inactive transportation. Significant correlations were seen between parental willingness and compositional aspects of parental social network ties, i.e., having ties to individuals of diverse ages (τ=0.271) and having ties to individuals with children of the same age as their own (τ=0.267). Qualitative analyses of concerns revealed sub-themes related to the traffic, the need to cross a street, and the need for a suitable place to walk and bicycle, as well as concerns about the WSBP. KFL&A Public Health, LDPS, and Kingston’s City Traffic Engineers can use these results to address barriers to the WSBP and to advocate for improvements in the community infrastructure.