The XX Factor

Annals of Guilt-Inducing Parenting Research: Moving

Add this to the list of things that I’m apparently supposed to worry about, to which I don’t think my own parents gave more than a passing thought: Recent research results on moving during childhood show it’s harmful in the long run. Relocating parents of extroverted kids needn’t worry so much, but those who’ve spawned introverts and other “neurotic” types can add another brick to the never-ending load of guilt.

With all due respect to the idea that knowing more about the internal workings of our children’s minds can help us to help them grow, can I just point out that this is perhaps the single most useless-guilt-inducing study result I’ve ever seen? How many parents do we suppose are out there moving, in the middle of a recession, for optional reasons? People move for jobs. They move because of family changes. They move because of housing difficulties. They move, typically, because they have to . It’s obviously stressful-moving ranks as one of the most stressful events of a lifetime, right up there with divorce and the death of a close family member, both also events likely to cause long-lasting collateral damage to the kids caught up in their wake. According to one of the study’s authors, “Parents who are considering moving need to think about their children’s personalities and the potential risk.”

I disagree. Moving, to me, is just one of those mixed blessing things that happens to kids. I’d attended five schools by sixth grade. I hated moving-but I got that if we wanted to eat, we’d go where the jobs for my dad were. It’s quite possible that I’m “less satisfied” with life than I would be if I had a home base to return to-a house I’d grown up in, neighbors and a street I’d known all my life. I’m reasonably certain that I’m also a stronger person as a result: more resilient, more able to adjust to change. But if I’m not, does it really matter? Things happen in kids’ lives: They move, they watch parents argue, they wander downstairs after bedtime and end up watching a key and scarring moment of The Shining . We can’t prevent, consider, or research everything. But we sure seem determined to try.

Photograph of U-Haul trailer by Tim Boyle/Getty Images.