Objective. To evaluate the relationship of geographic mobility to children's emotional/behavioral adjustment and school functioning.
Design. Analysis of data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey of Child Health in which multistage probability sampling was used to obtain data for nationally representative estimates of health and demographic characteristics of US children.
Participants. 10 362 US school-age children and their families.
Measurements. The 1988 National Health Interview Survey of Child Health includes data on health and demographic characteristics, emotional/behavioral variables, school functioning, and geographic mobility for 10 362 US school-age children. This study examined the relationship of children's geographic mobility to children's reported emotional problems, use of psychological help, scores on a Behavior Problem Index, repeating a grade in school, and being suspended or expelled from school.
Results. Twenty-four percent of children have never moved, 35% of children have moved once or twice, and 39% of children aged 6 to 17 years have moved three or more times in their lifetime. Using multiple logistic regression to control for important demographic variables, children who moved three or more times were 2.3 times more likely to have had emotional/behavioral problems, 2.2 times more likely to have received psychological help, 1.7 times more likely to have repeated a grade, and 1.9 times more likely to have been suspended or expelled from school compared with children who had never moved. Multiple regression was also used to analyze the impact of mobility in relation to scores on the Behavior Problem Index. Children who moved three or more times were 1.6 times more likely to be in the top tenth percentile of scores on the Behavior Problem Index compared with children who had never moved.
Conclusions. Children who move three or more times are at increased risk for emotional/behavioral and school problems. Thus, pediatricians, other health professionals, and educators should be alert to the potential educational and psychological problems among children from highly mobile families.