Many child experts believe continuity and stability are necessary for positive development in children. Moving disrupts that continuity and stability. Whether relocation has positive or negative effects on the adjustment of children relates to many variables, such as the distance of the move, the frequency of moves, and parental attitude toward the move. Frederic Medway notes that moving can be more difficult for those family members who have the least choice about the decision, such as the children and, in an employment situation, the spouse of a transferred worker.


Children with prior psychological or academic problems may also experience increased difficulty following relocation. The significance of the child’s prior psychological status was underscored in a study of the effects of corporate mobility on children’s adjustment. Based on the mothers’ reports Linda Stroh and Jeanne Brett found no difference between middle-class children who had moved and those who had not. The two major factors that accounted for the children’s adjustment were the children’s prior adjustment and parental satisfaction and self-confidence. Factors such as characteristics of the child, special needs, or ethnic differences may also contribute to difficulty in relocation for particular children. For example, a child with specific academic needs may move from a school with excellent resources to one with limited resources. Similarly, a child may move from a diverse community to a more homogeneous one where he or she is a member of a minority group. Upon moving from a large city to a small town, one child expressed distress because he was not used to dressing the way everyone else did. While no definitive conclusions can be reached because of the limitations and comparability problems of the existing studies, it should be noted that very little research support exists for long-term negative effects of moves for children in intact families. Under ordinary conditions, children generally adjust to the move after a relatively short amount of time. Although for an intact family, extended family members and friends may be missed, children still have the support and presence of their parents when the family moves together. For an intact family, the move can be a positive event. Daniel Stokols and Sally Ann Shumaker report some studies that indicate preventing a move may be more harmful than moving, where benefits are derived from moving. No studies have specifically examined the impact of relocation of the residential parent and the child, where relocation involves moving away from the general home community and nonresidential parent. The impact of environmental change, which may include moving to a different residence or community has been explored in a few studies. In an early study by Arnold Stolberg and James Anker, amount of environmental change was found to have an impact on children from divorced families but not from intact families.


Arnold Stolberg, Christopher Camplair,Kathlyn Currier, and Mary Wells concluded that children’s life changes, which included changing schools, mother starting work, and moving to a new house, are the “most significant determinants of children’s post-divorce maladjustment.” Lawrence Kurdek, however, reported that degree of environmental change (represented by a composite score based on moving to a different home, different neighborhood, or different school) was negatively related to frequency of father visits for low-conflict divorced families only. It was not related to regularity or duration of visits or regularity of child support payments for either low or high conflict families. Most of the data collected in these studies were based on reports of custodial mothers. In these studies, moving cannot be separated from other variables that could account for the results. For instance, a mother beginning work following a divorce or the children and residential parent moving to lower quality housing can confound the effects of moving itself. Divorce already separates the child from one parent, even if that parent spends a significant amount of time with the child post divorce. Even grown children have reported anxiety when parents move out of the family home, whether related to divorce or to married parents leaving an empty nest for a smaller place. The loss of the family home marks a loss of the familiar and safe. For a child as well as an adult child of divorce, the loss provides a concrete marker to the end of their childhood family. Relocation to a new area may be experienced as the final representation of the family break-up for the child.




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