How Frequent Moving Impacts Kids

I lived in the same city in the same house for my entire childhood.   As such, I could only imagine what it was like to pack up my belongings and move on down the road.  But imagine it I did.  Despite the stability that came with my father’s steady employment, I envied the kids who got to move away.  I imagined they were heading off to adventure and excitement and I wanted to go too.

Considering my wanderlust, it’s no surprise that I married a man whose job involved frequent relocation.  But after several cross-country moves and the addition of a child to the family, I began to reconsider the wisdom of pulling up stakes and starting over every few years.  Our last move was traumatic and difficult for our 7-year-old.  After seeing what she went through, we vowed that we would never move again.  And according to a recent study, that decision may very well spare her an unhappy adulthood.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, finds that frequent moves can not only have a negative impact on a child, but can also impact their lives long after they’ve reached adulthood.

University of Virginia psychology professor Shigehiro Oishi says that adults who were serial movers as children tend to report fewer “quality” social relationships, have lower “life satisfaction” and a low sense of “well-being.”   The study, which tracked more than 7,000 adults, also found a relationship between childhood residential mobility and lifespan, with the frequent movers more likely to have died by the time researchers returned to follow up ten years later.

However, a childhood marked by frequent moving didn’t spell doom for everyone.  While the researchers found that children who could be described as introverts (moody, high strung or nervous), definitely suffered, extroverted kids seemed to be unaffected by their transient childhoods.

Other research suggests that in addition to personality, the reason for relocating and a child’s age also come into play when it comes to the impact of moving.  While military brats tend to do okay because they have lots of support to ease their transitions, those who move due to job relocation, divorce or death don’t fare as well.  And middle schoolers, who are usually in the throes of puberty, find leaving their friends and familiar surroundings more difficult than younger and even older kids.

My husband left a career he loved so we wouldn’t have to move anymore. It was a financial and personal sacrifice for us, but I have no doubt it was the right thing to do.  We have promised her that there will be no more moves and, knock wood, there won’t be.

Image: Clintus McGintus/Flickr

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