Childhood Independent Mobility in Belgium: Gender Inequality and How Youth "Find" Themselves in Their Neighborhood.

Activiteit: Talk or presentation at a conference


Independent mobility, as a form of active travel without adult supervision, has been linked to neighborhood familiarity, a greater sense of neighborhood security, and an increase in pride and connection with one’s surroundings (Westman, et al 2020; Wales et al., 2021). Given the noted benefits, both mentally and physically, of allowing children and adolescents to travel and recreate through independent physical activity, it is important to recognize the disparities found in rates of independent mobility.

This paper proposes to position empirical research identifying patterns of independent travel for children and youth in Belgium within the broader context of childhood social justice issues. The discussion suggests that opportunities for autonomy and neighborhood security, through independent travel, in a childhood neighborhood are unequally distributed by gender and location. The analysis utilizes two national daily travel surveys from 2010 and 2019 of children aged 6-17 across Belgium. The results of this analysis show that independent mobility is significantly higher in the most urbanized areas and lowest in the rural regions. The data show that females are less likely to make independent trips regardless of the level of urbanization and that both males and females increase independent travel as they get older. Interestingly, despite a decrease in automobile travel for all teenagers, males still have a significantly higher share of independent travel, suggesting that even as female youth shift to active travel, they are chaperoned at higher rates than their male counterparts.

The paper will relate these findings to social justice and gender-based security in mobility. The results recognize there are significant differences in autonomy for children by gender and residential location and given the proven benefits of independent mobility and active travel, how those disparities represent a social-level injustice that should be considered for childhood development.
Periode18 jul 2022
EvenementstitelUGI-IGU International Geographic Union Centennial Congress
LocatieParis, France
Mate van erkenningInternational