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Changing Schools Tough on Kids

May 8, 2003

Frequent switches can cause behavioral problems, study finds

HealthScoutNews — Children who experience frequent school changes are more likely to have behavior problems than children who have more stable schooling, says a Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Cincinnati study.

School mobility is an independent predictor of behavioral problems — separate from race, income, mother’s education level or any other factors that were measured in the study, which was presented this week at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting in Seattle.

The study examined 3,285 children between the ages of 5 and 14 who were part of a national survey of mothers and their children. Children were defined as being “school-mobile” if they were 5 to 9 years old and had attended two or more elementary schools, or if they were 9.1 to 14 years old and had attended three or more schools.

The children’s behavior problems were measured by mothers’ responses to a series of questions included in the Behavior Problem Index. The mothers of mobile school children had higher scores on the index than mothers of children with more stable school settings.

“Transitions can be so disruptive to children that parents need to weigh the potential academic benefit they may get versus the academic, social and emotional impact of making the transition,” study author Dr. Mona Mansour says in a news release.

She notes that children who are school-mobile are more likely to have non-married mothers, mothers with lower levels of school involvement, mothers with symptoms of depression and mothers with lower perceptions of school quality.

Whatever their reasons for moving, parents need to consider the potential impact of a move on their children, Mansour advises. Health-care providers and school officials also need to pay attention to the effect of school moves on children.

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