Perceived barriers to children's active commuting to school: a systematic review of empirical, methodological and theoretical evidence. Academic Article uri icon


  • Active commuting to school (ACS) may increase children's daily physical activity and help them maintain a healthy weight. Previous studies have identified various perceived barriers related to children's ACS. However, it is not clear whether and how these studies were methodologically sound and theoretically grounded. The purpose of this review was to critically assess the current literature on perceived barriers to children's ACS and provide recommendations for future studies. Empirically based literature on perceived barriers to ACS was systematically searched from six databases. A methodological quality scale (MQS) and a theory utilization quality scale (TQS) were created based on previously established instruments and tailored for the current review. Among the 39 studies that met the inclusion criteria, 19 (48.7%) reported statistically significant perceived barriers to child's ACS. The methodological and theory utilization qualities of reviewed studies varied, with MQS scores ranging between 7 and 20 (Mean =12.95, SD =2.95) and TQS scores from 1 to 7 (Mean =3.62, SD =1.74). A detailed appraisal of the literature suggests several empirical, methodological, and theoretical recommendations for future studies on perceived barriers to ACS. Empirically, increasing the diversity of study regions and samples should be a high priority, particularly in Asian and European countries, and among rural residents; more prospective and interventions studies are needed to determine the causal mechanism liking the perceived factors and ACS; future researchers should include policy-related barriers into their inquiries. Methodologically, the conceptualization of ACS should be standardized or at least well rationalized in future studies to ensure the comparability of results; researchers' awareness need to be increased for improving the methodological rigor of studies, especially in regard to appropriate statistical analysis techniques, control variable estimation, multicollinearity testing, and reliability and validity reporting. Theoretically, future researchers need to first ground their investigations in theoretical foundations; efforts should be devoted to make sure theories are used thoroughly and correctly; important theoretical constructs, in particular, need to be conceptualized and operationalized appropriately to ensure accurate measurement. By reviewing what has been achieved, this review offered insights for more sophisticated ACS studies in the future.

published proceedings

  • Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act

altmetric score

  • 10.4

author list (cited authors)

  • Lu, W., McKyer, E., Lee, C., Goodson, P., Ory, M. G., & Wang, S.

citation count

  • 55

complete list of authors

  • Lu, Wenhua||McKyer, E Lisako J||Lee, Chanam||Goodson, Patricia||Ory, Marcia G||Wang, Suojin

publication date

  • January 2014