Frequent Moves During Childhood may Compromise Adult Well-Being

A significant number of people can recall the difficulties of frequently moving from one place to the next during childhood, experiences that may result from parents with unconventional or rapidly-changing jobs, or other family circumstances. While there have always been some basic concerns about the psychological impacts of moving children on a regular basis, chief among them challenges in making and retaining friends, a recent study performed at the University of Virginia has suggested that frequent moves may be responsible for decreased well-being later on in life. The work focused on data collected at two points with a period of a decade between the two, and also found that those who exhibited introverted or neurotic traits were likely to be more severely impacted by the moving activity than their peers.

Information about participants’ personality and social styles was also gathered when researchers collected data in the mid-1990s and ten years later. Participants ranged in age from twenty five to seventy five, allowing for a wide population sample that may be especially well-representative. The researchers found that people who had moved frequently during childhood displayed a lower number of quality relationships, an issue which may lead to a lower overall quality of life. Among those who displayed neurotic traits, personal relationships factors seemed to have no effect on well-being, though the study’s lead author proposes this may be due to a tendency to experience many life elements in a more negative light.

The researchers call for more work to be completed to understand the specific relationship of childhood moving to adult well-being, principally because they suspect that a greater amount of detail may be able to help psychological health professionals make direct recommendations about moving or staying to concerned parents.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Peter


    June 7th, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    “…though the study’s lead author proposes this may be due to a tendency to experience man life elements in a more negative light.”

    This is from the last line in the second paragraph. I’m assuming that was a typo and the author meant to say “many”, not “man”. Or perhaps a Freudian slip? ;)

  • Kellen


    June 7th, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    what?! no wonder I am a basketcase- I am a military brat who must have moved ten times form 1st thru 12th grades. We were never anywhere more than a year or so therefore I never made those lasting friendships as a kid that taught me how to do that as an adult. While the travel was fun what was not fun was always being the new kid in school and having to start over making friends and finding my place in the world year after year.

  • Janey


    June 7th, 2010 at 9:26 PM

    I grew up in a military family too and we were constantly on the move. Two years in the same town was a long stay for us. I wasn’t an extrovert and hated having to have a new teacher and live in a new house repeatedly. I never had any very long term friendships because we never lived in one place long enough. What was even harder than making new friends for me was leaving the old ones behind. I don’t make friends easily and I would just be getting to trust them when we’d suddenly be packing up again.

  • jacob G.

    jacob G.

    June 7th, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    I moved to a different school almost every single year because my dad’s job demanded such moves and frankly,I thoroughly enjoyed seeing newer places and meeting newer people…the only thing I miss out ion is a long-time buddy :)

  • WereWolf


    June 8th, 2010 at 4:09 AM

    My cousin had to go through constant shifting of schools and homes and although he has no apparent problem,he is often uncomfortable with new people.I reckon he developed this habit because he always had newer school-mates and never tried gelling with them because he knew he would not stay in that city for too long.

  • Terry


    June 8th, 2010 at 4:49 AM

    I try real hard not to let things that happened to me in the past mold me into who I have become. They may influence some of my decisions but they don’t make me.

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