The last free-range children?Children's independent mobility in Finland in the 1990s and 2010s

Marketta Kyttä, Jukka Hirvonen, Julie Rudner, Iris Pirjola, Tiina Laatikainen

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The study reports the degree of children’s independent mobility (CIM) in Finland for over two decades, from the beginning of the 1990s up to 2011. The first part of the research examined the differences of CIM in five different settlements in 2011: inner city, suburban, large town, small town, and rural village. A cross-sectional survey was used on a total of 821 7- to 15-year-old children in various settlements in different parts of Finland. Independent mobility was operationalized both as mobility licenses, meaning parental permits to perform certain activities independently, and as actual mobility, the proportion of active and independent school travel and independent weekend activities. In the second part of the study, we used the same measures to compare the independent mobility of Finnish children in the 1990s and 2010s. The second sample consisted of a total of 306 8- to 10-year-old children and their parents who participated in the CIM study in 1993–94 or in 2011. The major finding of the study was that in Finland children’s independent mobility had decreased significantly during a span of 20 years, even more noticeably in the small town and rural village settings than in the inner city settlements. Finnish children, nevertheless, still enjoy a very high degree of independent mobility when compared with the children from the 16 countries involved in the large international comparative study for which the current research was conducted. In the discussion, we give some possible factors that can provide some understanding of and explanation to these trends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Issue numberJuly
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • actual mobility
  • children
  • independent mobility
  • mobility licenses
  • school travel
  • urban planning
  • weekend activities


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