Children¿s active commuting to school: an interplay of self-efficacy, social economic disadvantage, and environmental characteristics

Active commuting to school (ACS) can promote children’s physical activity and may help prevent childhood obesity. Previous researchers in various disciplines, e.g., health, urban planning, and transportation, have identified various predictors of ACS. However, little research has been carried out into investigating the effect of self-efficacy on ACS. The purpose of this study is to investigate the roles of children’s and parents’ self-efficacy in children’s ACS, controlling for sociodemographic and objective environmental characteristics.
This study is part of the Texas Childhood Obesity Prevention Policy Evaluation (T-COPPE) project, which includes data from 857 parent/child pairs from 74 schools who lived within two miles of school in Texas. Measures included children’s usual modes of commuting to school, participants’ sociodemographics, perceived self-efficacy toward ACS, sources of children’s self-efficacy, school settings, and objective environmental constraints. Multilevel structural equation modeling (SEM) was employed to test the hypothesized pathways using Mplus 7.0.
Around 18% of the children were active commuters. Two sources of children’s self-efficacy were identified, i.e., emotional states (β = 0.36, p < 0.001) and social modeling (β = 0.28, p < 0.01). Compared with children’s self-efficacy (β = 0.16, p < 0.001), parents’ self-efficacy (β = 0.63, p < 0.001) had a stronger influence on children’s ACS. Participants’ social economic disadvantage (β = 0.40, p < 0.001), environmental constraints (β = −0.49, p < 0.001), and school setting (β = −0.17, p = 0.029) all had statistically significant direct effects on children’s ACS.
Future initiatives should consider both parents’ and children’s self-efficacy in developing strategies for promoting children’s ACS. Social disadvantage and environmental constraints also need to be addressed for effective interventions. The work reported here provides support for the continuing exploration of the role of self-efficacy in children’s ACS.

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