Examining the Influence of Psychological Characteristics on Children?s Active Commuting to School using Theoretical Perspectives



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Previous research on children?s active commuting to school (ACS) focused mainly on physical and social environmental predictors of the behavior, leaving psychological factors under studied. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine psychological characteristics that can influence children?s ACS using theoretical perspectives in three separate studies. Beginning with a systematic review of the current literature of ACS, the first manuscript critically evaluated theory utilization and methodological quality of empirical studies on perceived barriers to children?s ACS, and provided recommendations for advancing the quality of future ACS studies. The second manuscript presented a quantitative study examining the roles of children?s and parents? self-efficacy in children?s ACS based on Bandura?s self-efficacy theory. In the third manuscript, the efficacy of a modified integrative model (IM) in explaining parents? intention toward ACS and children?s subsequent commuting behavior was tested, and multiple key psychological determinants of health behavior, e.g., intention, self-efficacy, health beliefs, were investigated. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used for secondary data analysis in the second and third manuscripts to test the hypothesized pathways using Mplus 7.0.

Several key findings emerged from the dissertation. First, many previous studies on perceived barriers to ACS lacked theoretical grounding or used theories superficially. Second, the methodological rigor of ACS studies need to be improved, especially in regard to appropriate statistical analysis techniques, control variable estimation, multicollinearity testing, and reliability and validity testing. Third, children?s self-efficacy is predictive of their ACS and can be increased through improved neighborhood safety and social modeling. Fourth, parents? intention toward ACS has both direct and mediating effects on children?s ACS, and self-efficacy represents the most powerful determinants of intention.

This dissertation, as a whole, builds upon current research and knowledge regarding children?s ACS and offers insights for more sophisticated ACS studies in the future. The work reported here provides support for the continuing exploration of the roles of psychological factors in children?s ACS using theoretical perspectives.