Predicting active school travel: the role of planned behavior and habit strength

Shemane Murtagh, David A. Rowe, Mark Elliott, David McMinn, Norah M. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Despite strong support for predictive validity of the theory of planned behavior (TPB) substantial variance in both intention and behavior is unaccounted for by the model's predictors. The present study tested the extent to which habit strength augments the predictive validity of the TPB in relation to a currently under-researched behavior that has important health implications, namely children's active school travel.

Participants (N = 126 children aged 8-9 years; 59 % males) were sampled from five elementary schools in the west of Scotland and completed questionnaire measures of all TPB constructs in relation to walking to school and both walking and car/bus use habit. Over the subsequent week, commutingsteps on school journeys were measured objectively using an accelerometer. Hierarchical multipleregressions were used to test the predictive utility of the TPB and habit strength in relation to bothintention and subsequent behavior.

The TPB accounted for 41 % and 10 % of the variance in intention and objectively measuredbehavior, respectively. Together, walking habit and car/bus habit significantly increased the proportionof explained variance in both intention and behavior by 6 %. Perceived behavioral control and bothwalking and car/bus habit independently predicted intention. Intention and car/bus habit independentlypredicted behavior.

The TPB significantly predicts children's active school travel. However, habit strengthaugments the predictive validity of the model. The results indicate that school travel is controlled byboth intentional and habitual processes. In practice, interventions could usefully decrease the habitualuse of motorized transport for travel to school and increase children's intention to walk (via increases in perceived behavioral control and walking habit, and decreases in car/bus habit). Further research is needed to identify effective strategies for changing these antecedents of children's active school travel.
Original languageEnglish
Article number65
Number of pages9
JournalThe International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Early online date30 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

PMID: 22647194 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] PMCID: PMC3419676 Free PMC Article


  • theory of planned behavior
  • habitat
  • active school travel
  • walking
  • children


Dive into the research topics of 'Predicting active school travel: the role of planned behavior and habit strength'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this