Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: School and Residential Mobility: Disentangling Pathways of Influence in Adolescence

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 3:30 PM
Miami Lecture Hall (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sara Anderson, Georgetown University and Tama Leventhal, Tufts University
School and residential mobility are transitions facing numerous children and adolescents across the U.S.  Approximately 10-17% of children and adolescents move each year (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013), with young children moving at the highest rates. Changing schools and residences can have profound consequences for children, which can be compounded by a change in both school and home (Institutes of Medicine, 2008). Residential and school mobility have links with academic achievement and socioemotional development, but less is known about if school, residential, or joint mobility is most deleterious for children and adolescents. Accordingly, this paper examines associations between school, residential, and joint mobility with adolescent achievement and socioemotional development. Specifically, we ask whether serial (repeated moves/school changes) mobility independently or jointly demonstrates associations with adolescent functioning. Second, it examines whether school or residential mobility during one developmental period (early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence) demonstrates associations with achievement and internalizing and externalizing behavior.

We employed the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (N = 1056; NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 1997), a birth-cohort study in 10 sites across the U.S. that followed children and their families over a 15-year period. Data were gathered across developmental periods from parent and child assessments and interviewer observations, in the home, lab, child care, and school settings. The outcomes of interest included math, and reading (using the Woodcock-Johnson Revised Educational Battery) and internalizing and externalizing behaviors (using the Child Behavior Checklist). We used a diverse range of child, parent, and contextual variables as covariates.

To answer our research questions, we employed OLS multiple regression to examine associations between residential mobility (comparing stable children with both children who moved one and multiple times) with children’s outcomes by developmental period. Multiple imputation, with the use of 20 imputed datasets, was employed across analyses to cope with missing data inherent in longitudinal studies.

Results suggest that participants who moved and changed school several times in adolescence and childhood demonstrated lower adolescent reading achievement than those who did not face as many or any transitions. However, this association may have been driven by adolescent school mobility as adolescents who changed schools (vs. those who did not) demonstrated lower math and reading achievement. Adolescents who moved across childhood and adolescence (vs. those who did nor or only moved one or two times) also faced adolescent deficits in internalizing and externalizing behaviors.

Overall, findings indicate that adolescent achievement may be compromised by adolescent or repeated school and residential moves. In addition, serial moves across development may be deleterious for socioemotional functioning. As an extension, we will replicate the study employing propensity score weighting or individual fixed effects to mitigate threats from selection bias to the extent possible. Results will be discussed in terms of policy and program implications.

Full Paper: