4 Ways Moving Frequently As A Kid May Have Negatively Impacted Your Wellbeing

There is psychological evidence behind your feelings of anxiety and stress due to moving throughout childhood.

sad woman by moving boxes Kadarius Seegars via Unsplash / fizzles via Shutterstock / Ranitaa's Images via Canva

While moving often as a kid may have taught you to find comfort in discomfort and adapt to new environments, a recent psychological study published by the American Psychological Association reported some rather counteractive findings to this notion.

Out of a sample of 7,108 American adults who were studied over the span of 10 years, researchers surveyed how the number of moves they had to make as a child has influenced them throughout adulthood. 


Their research suggests that adults who moved around frequently in their youth demonstrate a “poorer wellbeing” in their lives now.

The study was reposted to Reddit in the subreddit r/psychology, where other Reddit users shared their take on the matter.

There are 4 ways moving frequently as a child may have negatively affected your wellbeing

Outside the familiar ways these adults were affected by frequent moves as children, such as performing poorly in school or experiencing behavioral problems, researchers took note of some less observed results of these environmental resets that actually show up later in life.


1. You may be less satisfied with your life.

The study revealed that the more times participants moved as kids, the more likely they reported lower life satisfaction, such as feelings of unfulfillment and unhappiness.

This perception of their life is likely a result of their strong feelings of instability and unpredictability and the lack of security during this time of their lives. Due to the experience of having to start over, time and time again, these kids often felt like they didn’t fit in in their new environments or that they shouldn’t bother to settle out of their anticipation of moving away again. 



Because of these uncomfortable experiences, these kids may grow up feeling stuck in the same cycles of instability and may not understand how to establish the structure they lacked in childhood.


They might additionally struggle with fears of abandonment and loneliness that will develop in adulthood.

"I moved eight times before starting high school," one person shared in the Reddit post's comments. "At some point you just get used to everyone/everything being temporary and it gets hard to be invested in the people around you. At least that’s how I dealt with the feelings of constant abandonment." 

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2. You may have poor psychological well-being.

The study additionally found that adults who moved around often early in their lives reported lower psychological wellbeing. This ties in with overcoming the traumatic feelings these experiences likely triggered from a young age.


Because of the chaos of constantly changing environments, making and ending friendships, not being able to settle anywhere or develop long-term relationships or goals, you may find yourself repeating similar patterns of instability and struggling to accommodate your needs and desires in adulthood. 

"The urge to move every few years is too great to resist," someone related in the Reddit comments. "It is a huge effort to attach to things."



"I moved my whole childhood and on my own accord as a young adult, I continued," another individual commented. "It’s made me unstable. I get bored easily, my cycle is usually every two years I need to move." 


You may additionally feel as though you missed out on certain experiences as a kid, and rather than having the space to cultivate your own unique identity, you were forced to live in a constant state of change and motion, feeling lost amidst it all. 

However, this sense of adaptability also has the power to influence kids in a positive way, allowing them to take the lessons and experiences they gained from each new move and apply them to their growth. Nonetheless, this does not invalidate the challenges that might still show up later on in life. 

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3. You may have few quality social relationships.

It was foreseeable that researchers would discover many participants struggled to build or maintain long-lasting relationships amidst periodic moves, especially in those with introverted tendencies. Moving to a new city and school can be scary to any kid, but while more outgoing individuals aren’t afraid of talking to new people, introverted kids experience much more anxiety in this department. 


The repetitive process of leaving a school you were already comfortable at to transfer to a new one in a new environment can be extremely distressing and inhibit some kids from building strong friendships, leading them to develop attachment issues as they get older.



Additionally, this experience leads individuals to view their relationships with others as disposable, and this may cause them to feel the urge to run away when faced with challenges. 

According to the MacArthur Foundation, every move creates minor declines in social skills and emotional wellbeing, but these effects accumulate over time, explaining why these individuals might grow up feeling especially lonely and alienated and struggling to bond with others.


4. You may experience ​​more stress.

The trauma of moving has become so widely experienced with similar symptoms in adulthood that it’s been coined as “transfer trauma,” or Relocation Stress Syndrome, according to Leacy Brown, a South Dakota State University Extension gerontology field specialist. 

According to the experience of one woman, Ashley Walker on TikTok, who moved a lot as a kid, she has found herself experiencing panic attacks and PTSD when the possibility of moving has come up in her relationship. 



She explained this is because every time she needed to move was due to some traumatic event she experienced, conditioning her body to panic at the prospect of moving again. 


“Moving so often has caused PTSD in my body because I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel secure, I don’t feel stable,” Walker expressed. “All of those things that I have been developing over these years…literally hit me in this very moment.”

In fact, according to Evolve, the trauma of moving does cause several mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. 

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It’s no fun having to relearn everything from scratch at multiple points in our lives, but there are valuable lessons to gain from these experiences.

It’s understandable why this experience has created such severe stress and poor wellbeing among so many people. Yet, while these findings may be true, it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone who moved a lot in their life is inevitably less likely to appreciate life than those who didn’t. 


In fact, many people are grateful for the positive effects they have experienced, having more of an open mind to new perspectives and experiences, being more adaptive to change, and having layers of new experiences to learn from. 

"It’s not all bad, moving around every few years helped me develop the skill to make friends quickly which landed me my current job and helps me immensely in being successful," someone commented on the Reddit post. "All the places, experiences and humans I’ve [encountered] have made my life pretty full. Good and bad. I hope to reach a place where I can find a permanent home," another person shared.

"On the upside I’ve seen and lived in some truly amazing places and I wouldn’t give that up for the world. I’ve always been grateful for my nomadic childhood," someone else commented.



According to the Cross Country Moving Company, there is still plenty to gain from periodic moves, such as the mental cleanse of a fresh start, making friends from all over and learning which ones will survive the distance, and enjoying the excitement of a new city.


While it’s more comfortable for kids to grow up in the same city they were born in, surrounded by familiar faces, and they might have more opportunities to express themselves freely and comfortably, they might also struggle with adapting to change and leaving their comfort zone later on in life.

As it may be, having the strength to leave your comfort zone is a significant quality that contributes to your personal development, and take some time to be proud of yourself for this achievement you navigated from early childhood!

It’s important to acknowledge how the effects of moving often have impacted your life.

At the end of the day, depending on the individual, everyone has a different perception of their experiences, and there are both benefits and challenges to moving often. Some may have struggled more than others, some may still struggle, while others might have embraced the opportunities they had to grow in new environments.


There are various reasons why one may have moved often as a kid, be it for military relocation, divorce, job relocation, financial instability, or mere wanderlust, and it’s important to be cognizant of the effects these experiences may have on children before moving forward with such drastic changes.

While some adults feel inclined to stay living in one place and finally establish the security they have always craved, many others struggle with the periodic itch to change their environment, likely a result of growing conditioned to their moving experiences.



“I moved every 2 to 4 years due to my dad's job (not military). By the 7th move, I consciously decided to stop making friends because it seemed like a waste. Eventually I started vomiting whenever I had to start a new school. I still struggle with that,” one individual shared in the comments of the Reddit post. “I'm now 51 years old and socially awkward with one longtime friend. Moving made me adventurous but it also broke my heart. Even so, I can't stop. I'm always thinking of where I'll move to next.” 


As an introvert who went to several different schools in my youth, I can admit to experiencing stress under these unstable circumstances, however i can also confirm that the experiences shaped me for the better, exposing me to environments outside of my comfort zone and teaching me to embrace the unknown.

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Francesca Duarte is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team based in Orlando, FL. She covers lifestyle, human interest, adventure, and spirituality topics.