Maltreated Children Move More Often, Do Worse in School

By Lang, Susan S. | Human Ecology Forum, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Maltreated Children Move More Often, Do Worse in School


Lang, Susan S., Human Ecology Forum


A major reason maltreated children do worse in school than nonmaltreated children may be because their families move much more frequently and they change schools often, according to a recent award-winning study.

The study found that during their school years, abused and neglected children move, on average, twice as frequently as other children. Previous work by the researchers had found that maltreated children do significantly worse in school and have many more discipline problems than children who are not abused or neglected.

"This study lends empirical support to anecdotal reports that not only do maltreated children move more frequently, but higher rates of mobility are linked with poorer academic performance," says John Eckenrode, associate professor of human development and family studies.

The study, "Mobility as a Mediator of the Effects of Child Maltreatment on Academic Performance," was conducted with Human Ecology graduate student Elizabeth Rowe, Molly Laird of Quest International in Granville, Ohio, and Jacqueline Brathwaite, formerly of Hunter College and who worked with Eckenrode as part of a summer research program for minority students.

The researchers matched a sample of 530 maltreated boys and girls, grades K-12, with nonmaltreated children, all from Elmira, N.Y., on gender, grade, school, and socioeconomic status to analyze the effects of maltreatment on recent achievement test scores, current grades, and grade repetitions and how mobility affected these factors.

They found that mobility helped account for the effects of maltreatment on each of these measures; specifically, for grades in English and reading, 33 percent of the effect of maltreatment was accounted for by amount of mobility. For test scores and grade repetitions, 15 percent and 19 percent, respectively, were accounted for by amount of mobility.

"We suspect that the high mobility among maltreated children affects their academic achievement through various mechanisms," says Eckenrode, whose study is one of the few case-control research projects in this area that used a large sample and looked at the long-term effects of the different types of maltreatment. …

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