Academic journal article Cityscape

Residential Mobility among Children: A Framework for Child and Family Policy

Academic journal article Cityscape

Residential Mobility among Children: A Framework for Child and Family Policy

Article excerpt

Introduction

The United States is a country with high rates of residential mobility (for example, Long, 1992). Children move more than adults, a trend pronounced among those children who were less than 10 years old and for whom mobility rates exceeded 13 percent in 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011b). For children who are of a racial or ethnic minority group or are living in poverty, multiple moves per year are common (Alexander and Entwisle, 1988; Schächter, 2004; Ziol-Guest and McKenna, 2013). Growing research employing diverse samples and a range of analytic strategies, including innovative ways to account for selection bias, points to adverse consequences associated with residential mobility, such as victimization, poor health, felony arrest, and compromised socioemotional development and achievement (Busacker and Kasehagen, 2012; Coley et al, 2012; Foster and Brooks-Gunn, 2012; Herbers et ah, 2012; Voight, Shinn, and Nation, 2012). Given the high rates of residential mobility among U.S. children and youth and the evidence that links moving with unfavorable outcomes (for example, Jelleyman and Spencer, 2008), it is critical to understand the implications of moving across developmental periods and the manner in which co-occurring contextual shifts accompany residential mobility. Without this understanding, a sound foundation for policy interventions is lacking.

In this article, we develop a comprehensive theoretical framework to elucidate the pathways between residential mobility and children's outcomes. We examine residential mobility from a developmentalcontextual perspective that recognizes that moving may not be an equivalent experience for all children during all developmental periods. We describe how relevant developmental contexts-notably families, neighborhoods, peers, and schools-may be key pathways linking residential mobility and children's outcomes. This article has two main sections: the first is theoretical and the second empirical. In the first section, we discuss the theoretical foundations that justify a developmentalcontextual approach to residential mobility. Then, we critically review the literature on residential mobility and children's health and well-being for three developmental periods: early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. Next, we present four contextual pathways that may link residential mobility with children's outcomes: family, neighborhood, peers, and school. Building on the contextual pathways model, the second section provides an empirical example for exploring how residential mobility and children's contexts may be interrelated across development. We conclude with a discussion of current child and family policies for residentially mobile children and then make recommendations for further research and future policy.

Theoretical Foundations

Our theoretical model linking residential mobility with children's development is an ecological, developmental systems perspective (Bronfenbrenner and Morris, 2006; Lemer, 2006). This perspective views the developing child as being nested within multiple contexts, ranging from proximal to distal, and as being embedded within a system that entails dynamic relations between the child and these contexts and among the contexts themselves. Although all contexts are thought to influence children's development, those contexts in which the child regularly interacts (or are more proximal) may be particularly important for development, including family (Crosnoe and Cavanagh, 2010), neighborhood (Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn, 2000), peers (Bukowski, Brendgen, and Vitaro, 2007), and school (Wentzel and Looney, 2007). This framework is relevant to the topic of residential mobility and child development, given that moving often requires changes in these proximal settings, and to the reorganization of the child's developmental system after a move. The manner in which that reorganization takes shape has implications for a child's development. …

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