Trajectories and transitions: mobility after parenthood

Abstract

Life events, such as childbirth or retirement, provide a crucial opportunity in which an individual’s habitual travel routines are disrupted and they may be especially susceptible to changing their travel behaviour. The transition to parenthood is one such period in which numerous life events occur but also in which car orientated travel practices tend to be adopted. While much is known about how travel behaviour changes during this period, there is little research explaining the processes in which car orientated travel practices are adopted. This paper addresses this gap using the results from twenty-five semi-structured interviews with parents of young children. The interviews illuminated that while a general pattern of increasing car orientation was apparent among most participants, five distinct mobility trajectories were evident. These ranged from those who had little change in their car dependent travel behaviour through to respondents from formerly carless households who experienced a dramatic rise in car use. Further, it became apparent that the first few years following the birth of a child is a period in which numerous changes can act to punctuate stable travel routines. Each change represents an opportunity to intervene and encourage the adoption of more sustainable travel behaviour. However, these findings suggest that in order to encourage families to adopt more sustainable travel practices, planners and policymakers would need to address the many transport and housing factors facilitating car orientated travel practices.

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Source: Adapted from Müggenburg et al. (2015)

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback during the peer review process. The authors would also like to acknowledge Transport for Victoria, The Public Transport Research Group and the Monash University Institute of Transport Studies for their support with this work.

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L. McCarthy: study design, literature search and review, data collection, analysis and interpretation of data, manuscript writing. A. Delbosc: study design, manuscript review and editing. G. Currie: study design, manuscript review. A. Molloy: study design, manuscript review.

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Correspondence to Laura McCarthy.

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McCarthy, L., Delbosc, A., Currie, G. et al. Trajectories and transitions: mobility after parenthood. Transportation 48, 239–256 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11116-019-10051-5

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Keywords

  • Travel behaviour change
  • Life transitions
  • Mobility biographies
  • Car orientation
  • Children’s travel