Exploring parental attachment, perceived social support, theory of planned behaviour and the safe driving of young people

Tran Ha, David Rodwell, Teresa Senserrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Few studies have investigated psychosocial influences on the safe (as opposed to risky) driving behaviours of young people. In addition, there has been little consideration of interpersonal factors such as attachment between parents and children in this context. Examination of these factors is warranted given the overrepresentation of young drivers in crashes; that engagement and non-engagement in both proactive safe and risky behaviours are conceptually different; and that parents are commonly the main driving supervisor when young people learn to drive. The study was underpinned by the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), which was extended with attachment theory, perceived social support, and descriptive norms. Predictors of safe driving intentions and self-reported safe driving behaviours were explored with a sample of provisionally licensed drivers aged 17–20 years from Queensland, Australia. Three scenarios were investigated where safe driving was examined in general (N = 209) and in relation to driving in two common driving situations: stormy/raining conditions (N = 213) and on the highway (N = 199). Participants completed an online survey measuring attitude, subjective norms, Perceived Behavioural Control, and intentions from the TPB, as well as descriptive norms, attachment avoidance and anxiety, and perceived social support (emotional, instrumental, informational, appraisal) for safe driving. Two weeks later, a subsample (n = 66) completed a second survey asking them to report their behavioural opportunity and engagement in general safe driving, and the two safe driving situations. Hierarchical multiple regressions were conducted to investigate safe driving intentions. PBC and attitude were consistent significant predictors of intentions. Subjective norms predicted intention in the two driving situations but not in general safe driving. Informational support was a significant predictor of intention for general safe driving. Attachment avoidance and anxiety did not significantly predict intentions in any scenario. However, there may be benefit in investigating the action of attachment style on safe driving intentions via parental modelling. Parental modelling was a significant predictor of general safe driving intentions and may be related to attachment style. Due to participant attrition, investigation of self-reported safe driving behaviours was confined to bivariate correlations with intentions and PBC, with no significant correlations found. The findings suggest that TPB factors including PBC, attitudes and subjective norms may be important determinants of intentions for safe driving of young novice drivers. These findings could be used to inform development of road safety inventions such as media campaigns and demonstrate the value of further attention to safety versus risky behaviours in driving research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-428
Number of pages21
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


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