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Travel Socialization: Do parents socialize their children in their future travel mode behaviour?

Travel Socialization: Do parents socialize their children in their future travel mode behaviour?
Author: Susanne Nass
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'A child is born with an innate ability to walk but it is the parent(s) who teaches the child how to walk' (Baslington, 2007, p. 6).

People mostly associate the term socialization with a process which is applied to children.

In specific 'socialization is the way in which human individuals are made social' (White and Mufti, 1979, p. 1) and 'the culture of a society is transmitted to children' (Baslington, 2007, p. 1). Parents as well as siblings, peers, teachers and the media are functioning as agents of socialization (Grusec and Davidov, 2006). However one could argue 'that parents are the most important in their impact' (Grusec and Davidov, 2006, p. 284) as well as the most influential because they 'push their children in certain directions, disposing them to learn in particular ways' (White and Mufti, 1979, p. 1) leading to that 'each of us reaches adulthood with a good understanding of our society's basic rules, and long before that, we each develop a characteristic personality or social style' (Zigler et. al., 1982, p. 12). Parents are setting the stage for the children to become who they are. They teach them to talk, influencing their children's self-esteem, identity and personality as well as their racial and ethnic prejudice and moral values.

Interestingly, too is that primarily parents teach and form their children in regard to their later travel mode behavior as well. They are the ones who start making the children aware of what travelling means and what it involves. By including children in the whole travel process children learn to gain step by step an understanding of travelling because they are following the examples set by their parents. In general there is no innate ability to travel by car, train or airplane or to stay in a hotel, apartment or campsite or to choose rather other European countries to travel to than the home country. The parents preferred travel mode behavior 'has a bearing on children's learning about travel modes' (Baslington, 2007, p. 2) and is strongly influencing and socializing the children`s future travel mode behavior. If children have gained positive tourism experiences they are taking it over and if the travel experiences are negative their future touristic activities change.

In a small scale self-completion questionnaire with German participants it was found out that almost all participants have become aware of other languages, cultures and lifestyles when travelling with their parents. They also learned through their parents how to start communicating with others when being on holiday. They started to copy the behavior of their parents to use it on their own. Most participants were allowed to help planning and organizing the family holidays. In reference to this result it was proven that those participants do not have any problems travelling alone. In regard to which type of transport was used when travelling with the parents most answers ranged mainly between car and airplane. Asking what is used now, mostly all answered the same type of transport again. Only few changed to airplane instead of car. It was said that some changed the type of transport to airplane because they are saving their money to spend once a year a "big" holiday away from home. One possible reason: to 'redefine the grounds of [their] selfhood' to move away from an 'identity that [they] share with many others […] to one in which [they] use the relatively unique experiences provided to narrate a new individualized identity' (Desforges, 2000) when talking with others about the holidays afterwards.

Similarities have been analyzed, too in regard to accommodation. Participants, who went mainly on campsites with their parents to either stay in a tent or in a caravan, still prefer it when travelling alone now. The same conclusion was made with hotel accommodation and apartments.

All liked to go on holiday with their parents. Similarly, three quarter of the respondents answered that they definitely have been influenced in their travel mode behavior in the past by their parents.

'They showed me how to plan a holiday and what kind of catering one needs. It was explained to me that when travelling by car one is more flexible and one can see more from the landscape and country. I guess my parents "socialized" me a lot in regard to my travel mode behavior.' (Participant 4, 2010)

One can therefore confirm the statement by Padayhag and Fukuda (2009, p. 2) that 'travel behaviour is mainly shaped by an individual's social networks, made up of family, friends, and work associates' and as analysis show primarily by the agent parent(s). Hence, parental socialization in regard to travel mode behavior is affecting children in their own travel mode behavior tremendously.


Baslington, H. (2007) Travel Socialization: A social theory of travel mode behaviour. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, 2 (2), pp. 91 - 114.

Desforges, L. (2000) Traveling the world. Identity and Travel Biography. Annals of Tourism Research, 27 (4), pp. 926-945.

Padayhag, G. and Fukuda, D. (2009) Effects of socialization on activity-travel behavior in developing countries: A case study of university students in Metro Manila, The Philippines. University of the Philippines Diliman: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Symposium. [Online] Available from:
http://www.ncts.upd.edu.ph/jsps/pdf_files/full_paper/group2/Grace_Padayhag-Effects%20_of_Socialization.pdf (Accessed 19th April 2010).

Grusec, J. E. and Hastings, P. D. (2006) Handbook of Socialization : Theory and Research. New York: The Guilford Press.