Research Paper in Psychology: Psychological Effects of Moving Residences

Research PaperPsychology

Moving residences can be life-changing, especially when it involves a long-distance move. Moving will introduce an individual to a new environment that requires adaptation. Individuals have to cope with new rules, social norms, and culture. They have to build new relationships and find their role in the community. Residential mobility imposes challenges to individuals that can often result in psychological effects, especially on children’s developing minds. Moving residences can have adverse effects on an individual’s social skills, academic performance, and mental health.

Environmental Factors and Residential Mobility

The psychological effects of moving residences depend on multiple factors. The causes of the move can be a significant factor in the psychological effects, however, the conditions in a new environment can also be influential. According to Morris et al. (2017), the characteristics of places have a significant effect on an individual’s mental health. Individuals can suffer from poor mental health if they move to a place that has poor social, economic, and environmental conditions. Since some individuals and families move residences because of financial issues, they will likely choose a cheaper neighborhood that may have poor conditions. This can negatively affect an individual’s mental health, especially in children.

Residential Mobility on Children

Psychiatric Disorders and Poor Mental Health

Children possess developing minds that are malleable to various changes, such as moving residences. Residential mobility can have a significant effect on their growth and development. Children can suffer from psychiatric disorders, such as behavior-related disorders, antisocial personality disorders, and even suicidal behaviors (Morris et al., 2017). According to Li et al. (2019), university students who had high residential mobility at the age of six and above had poorer mental health while those who moved before the age of six did not suffer significant effects. The study showed that high residential mobility’s adverse mental health effects are stronger during the age of six and above. This may correlate with a specific time in a child’s developing brain. It also showed that high residential mobility at a young age can have detrimental long-term effects.

However, certain factors can help mitigate the negative effects of high residential mobility. A family’s resilience and income can lessen the negative effects on mental health (Li et al., 2019). A family that has a strong bond and can overcome challenges, perhaps due to strong communication and positive thinking, can help mitigate poor mental health effects. The positive environment that high familial resilience provides may be enough to buffer the psychological effects. Furthermore, individuals from high-income families may experience fewer mental health effects. This is perhaps due to their access to better neighborhoods and leisure. Children from this type of family can manage their mental health through distractions, such as gadgets and other hobbies. In contrast, children from low-income households may dwell on the act of moving residences, which can worsen their mental health.

Risks of Substance Use

Aside from psychiatric disorders, high residential mobility can lead to substance misuse in children. Webb et al.’s (2016) study observed a relationship between the long-term adverse effects of residential mobility and substance misuse. The study showed that children who experienced residential mobility have a higher risk of substance misuse when they grow up. This is one of the long-term effects of residential mobility that can harm a child as they grow. It is also important to note that the study observed this effect on different subjects across the socioeconomic spectrum. This means that both children from low and high-income families with high residential mobility are at a higher risk of substance abuse.

Poor Self-Regulation

Children can also develop poor self-control if they experience high residential mobility. This adverse effect is mostly present in low-income families since their limited economic resources can prevent them from self-regulating (Albrecht & Teachman, 2003; McGloin & Thomas, 2016, cited in Li et al., 2019). They may lack the knowledge and resources to assess their mental health. This can then lead to the development of poor behaviors as they grow. This will adversely affect their development and worsen their mental state. Furthermore, other factors due to limited economic resources, such as poor environmental conditions, can enhance the detrimental effects.

Poor Social Skills

As mentioned earlier, moving residences involve adapting to a new environment. This adaptation includes the creation of new relationships which will require social skills. However, since residential mobility disrupts peer relationships, especially in children, it can lead to poor social skills (Li et al., 2019). Individuals may find it difficult to build new relationships if they have high residential mobility. Some may even avoid building close relationships to prevent the feeling of loss when they move residences again. Additionally, the peer relationship disruption may lead an individual to not have long-term friends, which can be detrimental to their mental health. This effect is significant in children since it can lead to serious social skill issues.

Effects on Academic Performance

Residential mobility can either improve or worsen a student’s academic performance. Many studies suggest that high residential mobility leads to poor academic performance. However, the distance of the move can affect whether the effect is positive or negative. According to Cordes et al. (2019), long-distance moves can worsen academic performance while short-distance moves can improve it. Since long-distance moves mean more changes in the environment and culture, a student may need time to adapt and become productive. They will have to build new relationships and find their role in the new academic environment which may negatively affect their productivity. Alternatively, short-distance moves are mostly due to families wanting better housing. They may want to live in a nearby neighborhood with better housing or gain the financial capacity to afford to live in better communities. These changes can improve the mental health of students as well as their academic performance.

Effects of Underlying Mental Health on Moving

Underlying or subsequent poor mental health conditions contribute to the psychological effects of moving residences. The psychiatric concern, substance use, and other detrimental effects can worsen if an individual has poor mental health before the move. Morris et al. (2017) found out in their study that moving causes poorer mental health in children than when they are residentially stable. For example, if a family is moving into a new area because of a traumatic experience, moving may worsen the condition of a child with poor mental health. This means that children are likely to suffer poorer mental health after moving, thus causing the act itself to worsen mental health instead of other factors such as environmental conditions.


The negative psychological effects of moving residences are due to the adaptation that an individual must undergo in a new environment. The difficulty of the adaptation process leads to the adverse effects of psychiatric disorders, poor social skills, poor academic performance, drug misuse, and other mental health issues. However, short-distance moves can improve academic performance if an individual and their status possess certain conditions. Mitigating these psychological effects can be difficult but important to address since they mostly manifest in children and cause long-term effects.

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Li, M., Li, W., & Li, L. (2019). Sensitive Periods of Moving on Mental Health and Academic Performance Among University Students. Frontiers in Psychology, vol 10. Available at Accessed July 14, 2022.

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Morris, T., Manley, D., Northstone, K., & Sabel, C. (2017). How Do Moving and Other Major Life Events Impact Mental Health? A Longitudinal Analysis of UK Children. Health & Place, vol 46. Available at Accessed July 14, 2022.

Rumbold, A., Giles, L., Whitrow, M., Steele, E., Davies, C., Davies, M., & Moore, V. (2012). The Effects of House Moves During Early Childhood on Child Mental Health at Age 9 Years. BMC Public Health, vol. 12. Available at Accessed July 13, 2022.

Webb, R., Pedersen, C., & Mok, P. (2016). Adverse Outcomes to Early Middle Age Linked With Childhood Residential Mobility. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 51(3). Available at Accessed July 14, 2022.

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