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Funding for this research was provided by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation.


The rising prevalence in the number of children who are overweight or obese is increasing in importance as a public health issue in Australia. Parental fear as a barrier to children’s independent mobility and physical activity has contributed to the decline in children’s physical activity. Timperio et al. (2004) and Veitch et al. (2006) have reported parents commonly identify ‘stranger danger’ as a barrier to children’s independent mobility within their community. In a recent VicHealth survey it was reported that 63 per cent of participants agreed parents should not let primary school age children move to and from places without adult supervision. The same study reported 38 per cent of respondents agreed there was a high risk a child would be abducted by a stranger if they moved around in the community without adult supervision.

Zubrick et al (2010) reported while the likelihood of a child being harmed by a stranger is extremely low, many parents continued to hold a view that strangers present a constant threat to their children’s safety in public spaces. Vallentine et al. (1997) also reported that restrictions on children’s independent mobility and physical activity are mostly due to parental fear of strangers and related social dangers.