Abstract Background Air pollution has fast become an issue with great environmental and human health problems that can be attributed to rapid global industrialization and urbanization that has strong negative impacts on human health. Children are particularly vulnerable. While studies on the effects and toxicology of particulate matter pollutants that are 2.5 microns or smaller in size (PM2.5) are abundant, understanding the factors that influence human behaviors against or the avoidance of exposure/contact to air polluted with high levels of PM2.5 is lacking. In this study, this gap was narrowed by used the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to investigate the effects of Attitudes (AT), Subjective Norms (SN), and Perceived Behavioral Controls (PBC) on the Behavioral Intentions (BI) of parents with young children with different levels of education against or avoiding contact/exposure to air polluted with high levels of PM2.5. Methods The TPB model was used to predict the BI of parents with young children with different levels of education that live in Hong Kong using the results collected from 410 online questionnaires. Aspects of the BI influencing parents with young children that earned undergraduate group and post-graduate group were analysed using Smart Partial Least Squares 2.0 software. Results Our results revealed there were substantial differences in the AT of parents with young children that earned undergraduate and post-graduate degrees with respect to exposure to air with PM2.5 pollution. Conclusions In this study we assessed the factors that influence the air pollution prevention and avoidance behaviors of parents of the undergraduate and post-graduate groups that were exposed to air polluted with PM2.5. Our results show the AT, SN, PBC, and BI used in the air pollution protection model for the parents of both groups are connected by separate pathways. The undergraduate group has a higher PBC compared to the post-graduate group because the SN associated with their social ecosystems contribute to their BI. Using path analysis, we revealed that the undergraduate and post-graduate groups had different BI paths. The BI path of the undergraduate group is purer and simpler when compared with the path of the post-graduate group.