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Vote With Your Feet--Pay With Your Kids

Reports on the shadow side to the mobility that has 20 percent of Americans relocating each year. The finding that frequent relocation (moving five or six times in a child's life) is linked with higher rates of child dysfunction; Study by David Wood and colleagues reported in 'Journal of the American Medical Association,' Vol. 270, No. 11.

Frequent relocation--moving five or six times in a child's life--is linked with higher rates of all measures of child dysfunction.

Los Angeles pediatrician David Wood, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues find that 23 percent of children who moved frequently had repeated a grade, versus 12 percent of children who never or infrequently moved. Eighteen percent of kids who move frequently had four or more behavioral problems versus seven percent of kids who rarely or never moved, they report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 270, No. 11).

"A family move disrupts the routines, relationships, and attachments that define the child's world. Even a short move, which may allow parents to maintain their network of supports and relationships, may force the children to change schools and friends," says Wood and his colleagues at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

That's when things are good. But if the family has limited resources, contains only one parent, or moves because a parent has lost a job--and such families are the most mobile of all, moving twice as often as others--things are even more stressful. All compromise the ability of parents to help their children adjust.

PHOTOS: American ideology equates family moves with individual betterment and social improvement. But there's a shadow side to the mobility that has 20 percent of Americans relocating each year--and it falls most heavily on the nation's children.