The Effects of Frequent Moving on Children

By Lisa Evans
David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images

The 2003 National Network for Children's annual report indicated that one of every five American families -- 19 percent of the population -- relocates each year. Moving is difficult for adults. On top of the stress of packing and moving logistics, adults sometimes have a hard time adjusting to a new environment, new job and meeting new people. For children, the effects can be even more pronounced, having negative effects that last into adulthood.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD can be triggered by a move. Since children often feel a sense of powerlessness over the decision to relocate, this lack of control can develop into PTSD. Child development experts argue that moving is one of the most disruptive events in a child's life and can have many negative long-term effects that carry into adulthood. These negative effects can be even more pronounced on introverted children and those who are prone to anxious and inflexible personality traits.

Problems in the Classroom

Children who move frequently are more likely to have problems at school. A 2008 study in the "Journal of Child Development" argued that elementary children who change schools may experience drops in academic performance and have lower classroom participation. They tend to have more behavioral issues than students who reside under the same roof throughout their studies. These children also tend to have fewer social relationships. Teachers can play a critical role in helping a relocated child to adjust in his new environment, mitigating these negative effects by facilitating peer acceptance in the classroom.

Effects into Adulthood

Early relocating can have negative effects that last into the children's adult years. People who moved more as children are more likely to report lower well-being and life satisfaction as adults -- two standard measures used to quantify happiness -- and they tend to have fewer high-quality social relationships.

How to Help

Keeping kids busy through camps, sports activities and family activities can help to mitigate their feelings of loss after a move. Not giving kids time to brood over their feelings can help them to adjust to their new situation. Technology and social networking can also help kids deal with their move by allowing them to maintain social connections with people they knew in their previous location(s).

About the Author

Lisa Evans is a freelance writer from Toronto, Canada. She began writing in 2004 and her work has previously been published in "Canadian Immigrant," the "Globe and Mail" and "Scene Magazine." Evans holds a master's degree in political science.