Parenthood and cars: A weakening relationship?

  • Laura McCarthyEmail author
  • Alexa Delbosc
  • Graham Currie
  • Andrew Molloy


A wide body of research supports the notion that the travel behaviour of families with children tends to be car dependent. Yet recent literature suggests a more varied set of travel practices are emerging among this group. Using data from a large-scale household travel survey, we explored whether changes are evident in levels of car use among three household groups in Melbourne, Australia. The three groups were selected to broadly represent a sequential order of life stages: Young Couples, Young Families, and School-age Families. Chi square and two-tailed t tests were used to examine changes in travel behaviour between 2007 and 2013/2014. Negative binomial regression analysis was then conducted to examine characteristics predicting vehicle, walking and public transit trips, among the three groups. Vehicle trips decreased for all groups between 2007 and 2013/2014; the decline was greatest among households with children present, both young and school-age. This suggests that a shift towards more sustainable travel behaviour is indeed apparent among families with young and school-age children in Melbourne. However, further research is required to understand the causes of the decline and to examine evidence of the decline in other locations.


Car-dependency Life stage analysis Family travel Children’s travel Parenthood 



The authors would like to thank Transport for Victoria, The Public Transport Research Group and the Monash University Institute of Transport Studies for their support with this work. We would also like to thank the insightful and helpful comments provided by three anonymous reviewers.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil Engineering, Institute of Transport StudiesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and ResourcesMelbourneAustralia

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