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Study: Kids Who Move Are Scarred for Life!

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Ronda Kaysen: A new study has found that kids who move a lot in childhood tend to be unhappier adults. Well, that's one way to make a mom feel guilty ....

kid with moving boxes

Researchers from the University of Virginia found that serial movers had fewer "quality" relationships and lower "well-being" and "life satisfaction" than adults who had sedentary childhoods. The really scary stat here: Adults who moved a lot as kids were more likely to be dead when researchers did 10-year follow-ups. Yikes!

The researchers noted that personality plays a key role in how mobile kids fare. If you're a "neurotic" introvert, good luck! But if you're a laid-back extrovert, you'll probably do just fine.

Now, wait a minute here. I find this news a hard pill to swallow. People who move a lot in childhood are more likely to die younger?! Really? As a grownup who had a big, totally uprooting childhood move at the oh-so-miserable age of 15, I can attest that the experience had a big impact on the adult I am today -- but not in a negative way. I think that moving as a young teenager and suddenly realizing that not every place on Earth was exactly like Berkeley, California (a concept I still have a hard time getting my head around), was a good life lesson.

I consider myself to be a resilient person and one who makes ties easily when I land in new places, and I attribute that to moving. I often envy the stability my husband enjoyed as a kid growing up in a nice small town with the same circle of friends his entire life. But I don't think my husband's a happier or more well-adjusted person than I am simply because he had the same zip code for 18 years.

My son turns 3 this week, and he is currently living in his fourth home in his third state (the first of which was in another country). He holds two passports and, from what I can see, is a pretty well-adjusted, sociable kid. I'd like for him to have a settled childhood where he calls our current home his "hometown," but if we have to move again for some unforeseen reason, I think he'll survive.

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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Alison July 16, 2010, 4:56 AM

I think you are looking at your single move as a child as having the same result as moving multiple times. As an adult who moved 16 times before the age of 20 (4 times in 5th grade alone) I agree fully with the articles view of the emotional toll it can take. My sister is more laid back and I am, well, not. But, overall we have similar views on the affect this had on us. Some of the moves were really hard and others were relatively easy. It was hard to be continually making new friends and there was not an easy way to stay connected when we moved. I still struggle with making friends because it stopped feeling worth it at some point when I would just leave them anyway. It is a skill I never really mastered. But, I also learned that every area is different and enjoyed many new experiences I would not have if we had been settled somewhere.

I know I will not be uprooting my kids at certain times in their lives but will also not rule out a move at other times if it is best for the family. But, moving serially was definitely damaging to me overall and I can’t imagine putting my kids through that.

Lee July 16, 2010, 6:09 AM

My son went to a different school every year from preschool through 2nd grade. 4 schools in 4 years. It was devastating watching him struggle to fit in and make new friends every year.
Now we have lived in the same city for 4 years and all of my kids have adjusted well and love it here, but I know another move is looming about 18 months or so in the future. I am dreading it, but hoping it will be the last move for a long time, I really want to get every one settled before middle school.
I don’t think a move or two will affect kids that adversely, but serial moving is a whole ‘nother story.

Jilly July 16, 2010, 7:22 AM

I agree with the commentors. WIth the right personality some children may be alright, but I think for a lot of them it makes forming bonds difficult when then move multiple times.

singlemommy25 July 16, 2010, 12:42 PM

I too moved a lot growing up, a different school from kinder-5th, 1 middle school and, 2 high schools… my parents were very financially unstable. I wouldn’t consider myself an “unhappy” adult anymore than someone who didn’t have to move. I have the same problems most people my age do. As far as making friends and keeping relationships, i have no problem. Im actually more outgoing and making friends is very easy for me since i had to do it EVERY YEAR. My sister on the hand is somewhat reclusive. She keeps to herself and has very few friends. I guess everyone is is affected in different ways.

anonymous July 16, 2010, 12:54 PM

I don’t think the study controlled for moves that happen for bad reasons - divorce, losing a job, financial problems.

Christina July 16, 2010, 2:48 PM

Once again, I believe the resilience of children is underestimated. My father worked for the government. By the time I was in high school I had moved more than 20 times. Was it always fun being the new kid at school? No, but I had seen and done much, much more than most kids my age. I think part of it had to do with my parents’ attitude. It wasn’t treated as some horrible thing, but just part of life for our family. Admittedly, my closest friends are ones I made as adults, but that might not be a bad thing, as I had more experience to draw on and make better choices about the kinds of people with whom I wish to spend my time. My own kids will likely not ever have to move as often as I did, but I don’t think it will harm them if they have to move a few times before they go off to college.

Annie July 16, 2010, 5:53 PM

I agree that the reasons for moving should be taken into consideration. As a military brat, I moved many times in my childhood and didn’t ‘settle down’ until I was into my late teens when my dad retired. I don’t think that I’m traumatized. I actually feel lucky that I got to experience so much at an early age. Saying goodbye to your frieds and having to make new ones is difficult. But in this day in age, with all the social media etc, you can very easily keep in touch. I have been ‘sedentary’ for the past 17 years and am really getting the ‘itch’ to move. My husband doesn’t really understand why, but then again he’s been here his entire life. Don’t worry about moving a few times. If you are involved as a parent, you will be able to get your kids through without any major issues.

Elizabeth July 17, 2010, 8:17 PM

I wonder what they are defining as “often”…6 times? 7 times? What? And also are the moves from town to town or state to state? That changes things too. We moved several times when I was a kid, but always within the same small town and I didn’t change schools. All I think it did was give me a love of home improvement. ;)

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