Moving Frequently as a Child and Impact on Adult Life

Mrs. - posted on 02/06/2012 ( 14 moms have responded )




I moved an insane amount when I was a kid. I've also continued the trend as an adult. I've often wondered if this had anything to do with my lack of follow through when it comes to maintaining friendships long-term...I just never learned how to do it.

This study brings forward some evidence that seems to jive with my hunches on the subject:

"Moving Repeatedly in Childhood Associated with Poorer Quality of Life Years Later

Lack of quality long-term relationships related to poorer well-being.

WASHINGTON – Moving to a new town or even a new neighborhood is stressful at any age, but a new study shows that frequent relocations in childhood are related to poorer well-being in adulthood, especially among people who are more introverted or neurotic.

The researchers tested the relation between the number of childhood moves and well-being in a sample of 7,108 American adults who were followed for 10 years. The findings are reported in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.

“We know that children who move frequently are more likely to perform poorly in school and have more behavioral problems,” said the study’s lead author, Shigehiro Oishi, PhD, of the University of Virginia. “However, the long-term effects of moving on well-being in adulthood have been overlooked by researchers.”

Related journal article

Residential Mobility, Well-Being, and Mortality (PDF, 131KB)

The study’s participants, who were between the ages of 20 and 75, were contacted as part of a nationally representative random sample survey in 1994 and 1995 and were surveyed again 10 years later. They were asked how many times they had moved as children, as well as about their psychological well-being, personality type and social relationships.

The researchers found that the more times people moved as children, the more likely they were to report lower life satisfaction and psychological well-being at the time they were surveyed, even when controlling for age, gender and education level. The research also showed that those who moved frequently as children had fewer quality social relationships as adults.

The researchers also looked to see if different personality types – extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism – affected frequent movers’ well-being. Among introverts, the more moves participants reported as children, the worse off they were as adults. This was in direct contrast to the findings among extraverts. “Moving a lot makes it difficult for people to maintain long-term close relationships,” said Oishi. “This might not be a serious problem for outgoing people who can make friends quickly and easily. Less outgoing people have a harder time making new friends.”

The findings showed neurotic people who moved frequently reported less life satisfaction and poorer psychological well-being than people who did not move as much and people who were not neurotic. Neuroticism was defined for this study as being moody, nervous and high strung. However, the number and quality of neurotic people’s relationships had no effect on their well-being, no matter how often they had moved as children. In the article, Oishi speculates this may be because neurotic people have more negative reactions to stressful life events in general.

The researchers also looked at mortality rates among the participants and found that people who moved often as children were more likely to die before the second wave of the study. They controlled for age, gender and race. “We can speculate that moving often creates more stress and stress has been shown to have an ill effect on people’s health,” Oishi said. “But we need more research on this link before we can conclude that moving often in childhood can, in fact, be dangerous to your health in the long-term.”

Now, I know because I did move a lot, I have an edge on some people. I can walk into most foreign situations and meet people fast, even though I can't follow through long term...I can make myself known quickly in new situations. I also have a wide variety of living experience and exposure to different cultures, etc. I'm just wondering if those pros outweigh the cons.

So, I'm wondering do you think this study has merit? Do you think you moving your child or your own moves as a child affect the adult lives of you/your kids? Is moving your child detrimental to their future?


[deleted account]

When I was about 35 years old, I sat down and figured out how many places I had lived in throughout my life. Of the ones I could remember (and I'm sure there were more), I'd lived in more houses than I was years old. Then I had my son and he's 4 now and we've only moved twice. Moving around a lot definitely had an effect on me. I don't like new situations and don't make friends easily. Yeah, moving a lot made me socially awkward and it's a trait I hope NOT to pass on to my son.

Becky - posted on 02/07/2012




My situation was kind of weird. In my early childhood, we did move a lot. Between kindergarten and grade 4, I was in a new school every year. Then we got out to Africa and went to boarding school and I was in the same school, with esssentially the same friends, until I graduated highschool, with the exception of my grade 8 year, when we were back in Canada. But, because of my friends' families' furlough schedules, going to different fields or leaving the field, etc, there were always goodbyes at the end of every year. Some were only for a year, some were for good. I think it definitely messed me up in some ways. I have abandonment issues, difficulty really opening up to people, and yeah, I think some difficulty maintaining real long term friendships. Really, my only lifelong friends are the ones I went to boarding school with. We have a unique bond. I'm still friends with some of my friends from early adulthood, but a lot of them I've grown apart from. Although, that may be due more to life circumstances than to my past.

Mrs. - posted on 02/06/2012




It is super hard to maintain long term friends when you move so much. My husband moved once as a child and then moved back to the same school/town. His best adult friends are the ones he met when he was like 5. I think he takes it for granted that his idea of himself as a well-loved, very successfully social person is only in place because he managed to start building the same relationships from childhood.

The advent of facebook, however, revealed to me what an impact I had on people's lives moving around so much. Most of the time, I would come into a school full of "lifers", do my best to make friends and then blow out of there. I assumed no one ever remembered me...instead I have people contacting me from all over, many who I don't remember, saying, "Oh my God, I always wondered what happened to you." (It helps that my last name is unusual)

I think if something like facebook had been around when I was a kid/teen, I might have been able to maintain more of my hard won friendships that I had to abandon over the years.

Tam - posted on 02/09/2012




I think it can go both ways. I was a military brat, moving every 1-2 years or so. I loved that life. I still love moving. I enjoy trying new things and I take to new situations easily. I tend to be very confident around new people and places and have been told more than once that I possess some very worldly qualities.

I suppose the negative, if you could call them that, would be the lack of long-term friendships. The oldest friend I can actually pick up the phone and call right now I have known for a little over ten years - I'm 27, for reference. I've gotten really, really good at letting go, saying goodbye, and compartmenalizing. I make new friends slowly, but not through suspicion or mistrust. It's more because I make choices carefully and my upbringing has made me into a very frank person, so I typically gravitate to others who are like me, and there are few and far between. Sometimes, I am unsure of what social norms should be followed for the situation I am in, causing me to make minor social faux pas on occasion.

I feel that I am successful at relationships. I've been married for nearing seven years at this point. I didn't date much in high school, but part of that could have been the resistance most populations have for 'newbies' coupled with my slow-to-open-up demeanor.

I never have had a huge circle of friends. Two or three close friends was well enough for me, and it left me plenty of time to develop my considerable amount of personal pursuits, from gaming, reading, writing, drawing, sewing, crochet, etc, etc.

But you look at my sister, who had the same upbringing as I, and she is my total opposite. She hates change, hates moving, and hates trying to understand others. It is this absolute difference between the two of us that makes me think that the mobile upbringing is not the culprit, so much as the personality and proclivities of the person experiencing it.


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User - posted on 04/15/2015




I was a corporate brat and moved 14 times, growing up. Since that is my "normal," I found the article and your response interesting. I have never had anything to compare with my experience since I have never met anyone who moved around as much as I did. Looking back, I too found it very difficult in many ways and yet, as you shared, I also see the advantages. I learned, as you did, to make friends easily. I am intuitive in my relationships with people and can "read" feelings of others. For this reason, I am often sought out by those I know for counsel and advice. Empathic listening was a skill that I developed, which I attribute to moving around and observing so many people from various backgrounds. I can relate to feelings of loss, separation, and failure to fit in - because I lived it so often growing up. I enjoy people and am forever curious about them. However, I also feel that I am more of an observer than a participant in long term friendships, with the exception of members of my family. It doesn't, however, limit my investing in a friendship yet a part of me feels that I am just passing through - so enjoy the moments rather than expect a future.

Stephon - posted on 06/12/2014




I went to 6 Elementary schools, 2 Middle Schools, and 3 High Schools. The hardest part is making new friends and always playing the role of the "new kid' even though that was not the role you wanted. I would try out for the sports teams with no success. Even though I was good at sports, many times there was no way they would let you take a starters position unless you were gifted and/ or physically excpetional. Also, the players had a tight bond after many years of playing together and I was more on the outside looking in, only on the team because they had pitty for me as the new kid. I had a 4.0 GPA up until 8th grade. By the beginning of my 11th grade year, I had a 1.5 and my chances of getting into a good university were gone. I became depressed and did not care due to the stress from moving and other things in my life at the time. I graduated High school, joined the Marines for 4 years, went to community college getting a 3.9 GPA, and now I am a junior at UCLA. I became jelous, hateful, and envious of people that had stable lives financially and lived in one place. On the positive side, It is easy for me to talk to people. I realize that, despite peoples actions, people are generally good, understanding, and willing to help if you ask. I am stronger and am better prepared for what life throws my way. I have a diverse group of friends and have dated girls from every race from my understanding I gained of different people growing up.

Michael - posted on 04/10/2014




I moved every 4 to 6 months until I finally could start my own life when I was 24. I stopped counting houses after the thirtieth time we moved. When I was 12 I realized my parents weren’t entirely normal. They moved because, sooner or later, they started arguing with everyone. I wasn’t allowed to keep contacts with new friends because my mother became jealous of them. She didn’t say it implicitly. But said hurtful things each time I wanted to go play with them. So, I stopped. But it became worst. They started moving faster and farther. When I was sixteen they took me from school. But, when I was 20, I was fed up with their crap. And started studying again. They still moved a lot. But I didn’t care anymore if I had to ride with my bicycle ten or a hundred kilometers.

Each day, the insults became worst. I didn’t know anything according to them. After three years I finally had my diploma. Now, I’m studying for civil engineer. But, without their help. They left to go and live 1000 miles farther.

What good came out of all that moving around? Not much. You don’t have a past. And, in my case, your left alone with a bunch of useless memories. But one thing I have learned is, that the future depends on the choices you make right here, right now. My parents chose that way of life. That’s their choice. But I chose this life. Staying in this town, building a life with people that know, they can depend on me and vice versa. And in my eyes, that’s a good way to live your life.

Aleks - posted on 02/08/2012




I have moved around a bit as a kid, but I wouldn't think it was excesive. Yes I moved countries a couple of times and a continent as But we didn't move several times a year or every year. We tended to do it every couple of years or so...he he he. I have kept contact with at least one friend from my home town (though not tight, I am a sahm and she is still single and chasing the dreams a single chases). I have also kept most of my very close friends from high school (primary school is when I did most of the moving).

On the other hand, my SO has ever lived in 3 different houses. Up until his late 20s was in just the one house with his mum and dad (who still live in that same house), until he bought his little bachelor pad (not really but we call it And now we have bought this current house together, it is his 3rd residence ( my 11th ).

He has not kept any of his friends from growing up, whether neighbourhood friends, primary school friends or high school friends. He kept contact with one uni best friend he had, but that quickly somehow faded (basically he let this friend go, why I don't know, he doesn't himself). He now only keeps in touch with a few buddies at work (ones he started in the company with, and even then some of these are infrequent), and half the time only because they see eachother at work.

So I guess there goes that theory.

As for being affected by moving... well... yeah. I cerainly was. Not so much at that time though. I was a kid. But later. Most of the reasons for my "issues" stemming from moving actually have more to do with being a migrant to a different country and somewhat different culture and definitively language, than moving around, per se.

What I did find though, that after moving around within the 2yr marks (give or take), my family had found itself with "itchy feet" around that time line. So once we found ourselves living in a certain place for about 2 yrs we started to get "bored", for lack of a better word, with the place and was feeling the need to move and find somewhere else "to explore/discover". At one stage I remember discussing with my mother how we feeling and discovered we both had the same feeling/urge to just pack up and leave the place (though my dad would have none of that - but he is more of the kind to set roots - but at times I caught him discussing potentials). Canada was on our 'lofty" agenda at the time LOL. While talking about wanting to move, we discovered that "LO' an' Behold", it is just passed the 2 yrs mark of living in the place. We laughed. No we didn't end up moving. Well from that appartment we did a few yrs later, but we are all still living in the same city.

Also, I am not really good at completing things, generally.

So, make what you will out of the theory. While an ineresting one, I am going to take it with a grain of salt.

Jodi - posted on 02/07/2012




I never moved once growing up. My best friends are the friends I made in kindergarten and didn't move. I do have one adult friend though who moved around a lot growing up (military brat I believe is the term!) and while she's great at *making* friends, it's like she doesn't know how to maintain a friendship. We've been friends for a couple of years, and usually it's in my court to call, to make arrangements to get together.

Now, I have no idea if that's just her personality she was born with, or if that's a side effect of moving and never being able to maintain a lasting relationship. But, she is the first person I've befriended who is like that, so now I wonder! lol

Elfrieda - posted on 02/06/2012




Interesting. My mom moved almost every year of her childhood, including a big move out of the country where everything she owned was put up for auction. Her dad was a real sweetheart. He'd come home, gather his family (including his wife) and say, "Surprise, we're moving! Someone bought the house."

She is not an extrovert, and also felt very strongly about us not moving around a lot when my sister and I were young. She doesn't have a lot of friends now, maybe this is the reason.

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 02/06/2012




I moved very frequently, although it was within the same city. I went to 8 or 9 different schools too. Perhaps where we still stayed in the same city it didn't have a terrible outcome on me. However, I did have tons of issues in school. I did get my high school and move on to secondary but it took me a long time. I was 25 by the time I went to secondary and I was 22 before I finished my high school.... I do have an issue with trusting people but I think that just stems from a poor childhood, not sure though... I know I hated having to make new friends all the time, I know I missed the ones I had in the old schools and communities. I am now very adimit on not moving my children and definitely will not have them go to a bunch of schools. My 13 year old has been to 3 schools, 1 for kindergarten to 2 (we had to move), the 2nd school for 3-5 and is now in JR high for 6-9, she will go to a diff school for high school, so really she only had one extra in there due to our one move... My son will go to three, since we don't plan on moving, at least not out of our school's district...

[deleted account]

I can't speak for my family personally (because we've always been in the same area), but I am friends with a guy whose family moved extensively (every 2 to 3 years) when he was growing up. I think the whole family (him and his 2 siblings) are a little "off" in their ability to form lasting relationships with people. They tend to, as a family, be very suspicious of people and their intentions. Whether that is related to the constant moving I can't say, but I know that is what he and his siblings attribute it to (i.e., the feeling that no relationship was going to have any permanence to it so why bother investing in it).

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