Are Some Types of Childhood Moves Worse than Others?

Are Some Types of Childhood Moves Worse than Others?
Rebekah Levine Coley, Melissa Kull
Child Development
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Children experience “primarily detrimental effects” from moving during childhood, according to research by Rebekah Levine Coley and Melissa Kull published in Child Development. With data on a nationally representative sample of 19,162 children from kindergarten through eighth grade, the researchers examined students’ cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral skills. The authors reaffirmed and built upon existing literature by assessing the effects of multiple moves, the timing of moves, and any associated school changes. An accompanying research brief puts the study’s findings in a policy context, recommending approaches schools can take to support children adjusting to a move.

Major findings:

  • Multiple moves tend to compound the effects of relocation on cognitive and social skills, particularly among young and school-age children.
  • A child’s developmental stage during a move is associated with different effects on cognitive and social skills. For instance, moves before kindergarten hinder only social-emotional well-being, but moves during elementary school affect social-emotional abilities and cognitive skills.
  • Changing schools produces stronger negative associations with children’s development—particularly cognitive skills—than changing residences, but these effects operate additively, not interactively; the two effects operate independently of each other.