Transport and child well-being: An integrative review

Key takeaway:

  • This review examines evidence that transport affects children’s wellbeing in five domains: physical, psychological, cognitive, social, and economic. Most benefits are associated with active and independent travel. 


  • Transport planning is often based on the journey to work, which leaves children’s journeys out since they don’t work. This partly explains why research on the relationship between transport and children’s wellbeing is so dispersed, unlike the research on the link between transport and adults’ wellbeing.
  • There are five domains of wellbeing:
  1. Physical: Indicators include health compromising behaviors, exercise, or safety-related behavior.
  2. Psychological: Indicators pertain to emotions, mental health, and mental illness.
  3. Cognitive: Indicators are school-related or intellectual, such as concentration, school behavioral problems, cognitive ability, and academic achievement.
  4. Social: Indicators include anti-social behavior, peer problems, participation in cultural activities, relationships with others, social skills, and socioeconomic status.
  5. Economic: Child support is the only indicator.
  • Active travel positively influences children’s physical activity, although external influences of traffic (i.e., noise, emissions, traffic density) have serious negative effects on children’s wellbeing.
  • Walking positively impacts children’s psychological wellbeing by reducing stress.
  • Active travel enables children to better observe and explore their environment and to develop more spatial awareness, which is beneficial for their cognitive wellbeing.
  • Children consistently want more social interaction, and active travel is associated with greater community connections and social interactions.
  • External impacts due to traffic (i.e., the health impacts of air pollution, crashes, noise, etc.) could have economic implications for children and their families, largely in the form of health care costs.
  • Research shows that while the physical health benefits of active transport are the most obvious, there are also further benefits in psychological, cognitive, and social domains.


  • The authors reviewed and summarized all relevant quantitative and qualitative research (over 271 papers) on the link between transportation and child wellbeing.

 Waygood, E.; Friman, M.; Olsson, L.; and Taniguchi, A. (2017). Transport and child well-being: An integrative review. Travel Behaviour and Society, 9.

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