Moving Combines with Other Risks for Highly Mobile Kids

Moving Combines with Other Risks for Highly Mobile Kids
Sara Anderson, Tama Leventhal, Sandra Newman, Veronique Dupéré
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Scholars have regularly found connections between childhood moves and adverse outcomes, such as reduced academic performance and problem behaviors. Child development experts want to better understand how this connection works. To analyze how moving matters to kids, the researchers used longitudinal data from a sample of more than 1,000 children in the U.S., focused on three developmental periods: early childhood, middle childhood (kindergarten through 5th grade), and adolescence (6th grade through age 15).

Research questions:

  • How is moving (or the number of times a child moves) connected with the quality of other factors that matter for children, namely their family, neighborhood, peer, and school contexts?
  • Do the stage of childhood affect the connection between moving and other childhood contexts?

For example, do children who move face other life challenges, such as a parent losing a job, parents separating or re-marrying, or a shortage of learning materials at home? Do children who move more frequently live in neighborhoods where few people have roots? Do they attend schools with a substantially low-income population?

Conversely, how likely is that for children who move, or move more times, to have developmentally-enriching contexts? For example, are their parents active in neighborhood groups or other activities? Do they have many friends, and do their friends exhibit positive behaviors? Do they have good teachers, supportive classroom environments, access to rich instructional materials, and useful feedback on their progress?

Major findings:

  • Children who move during early childhood and adolescence are less likely to have a father living in the home.
  • Children who move during the early and middle childhood periods are more likely to live in neighborhoods with high rates of residential turnover.
  • The more children move during middle school, the lower quality their home environment.
  • Children who move more often in middle childhood and adolescence are more likely to have changes in parental relationships (through the mother divorcing or getting married) and changes in parental employment.
  • School contexts were substantially similar for children who moved and those who did not.
  • Children who moved had a small, yet statistically significant, reduction in friends compared with those who did not move.
  • Housing programs that force families to relocate can create difficult readjustment periods and offer little support to ease the transition for children.
  • For children who move, policies may address their school transition and offer supportive services, but not address the mental and emotional effects of relocation.