Adolescent psychosocial development and relocation: An examination of how mobile adolescents adapt


Underwood, Sarah E. (2018). Adolescent psychosocial development and relocation: An examination of how mobile adolescents adapt.


Background: Youth relocation is a common phenomenon, with most children and adolescents moving 2.6 times by age 18. While multiple studies have been conducted on the consequences of youth relocation, most have focused on already vulnerable populations, potentially leading to overestimation of the psychosocial effects of relocation on youth. Adolescents often experience negative psychosocial outcomes following residential relocation. Current theories have focused on how adolescent psychosocial functioning is impaired due to disruptions in social networks. Though this has been a focus of research, few studies have investigated potential protective social relationships within the family, or how relocation may impact intimate relationships into adulthood. Methods: Secondary data sources were utilized to allow for large samples, and consisted of both yearly data, and longitudinal data. For the first paper, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) involving 178,022 youth aged 12-17 was used, covering the years of 2005 to 2015. Participants were grouped into three categories: non-movers, single moves, and two or more moves reported within the last 12 months. Ordinal logistic regression was used to estimate individual, family, and school-related factors, as well as behavioral correlates of relocation in the past 12 months. For papers two and three, the National Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) dataset was used. Those reporting relocating at least once prior to Wave I were designated as “movers”. Propensity score matching was conducted using a .25 caliper with 1:1 matching. Matched groups of movers and non-movers were assessed longitudinally in order to investigate how youth adapted into adulthood. Results: For paper one, 22.9% of youth reported at least one household relocation within the past year. Movers were more likely to identify as racial minorities and report lower household income. Those reporting at least one household move were also significantly more likely to report a past-year depressive episode and increased interest in high-risk activities. They were also more likely to report decreased parental engagement and decreased academic engagement. Both substance use and delinquent or criminal behaviors were significantly increased with those reporting relocation, with each relocation predicting a 97.5% increased likelihood of a past year arrest or booking. Paper two showed that prior to matching, those reporting relocation prior to Wave I were significantly more likely to be non-White, receive household assistance, and were more likely to report engagement in substance use and delinquent activities at Wave I. Regression analysis showed that those youth with siblings were more likely to report improved adaptation at Wave II. Significant effects were found for those with siblings close in age, and for those with same-gendered siblings. Lastly, paper three suggested that youth who have experienced household relocation were significantly more likely to report younger ages of sexual debut, decreased contraceptive use, and an increased number of partners. Mobile youth were also more likely to report at least one marriage by Wave III. Conclusions: Household relocation exposes adolescents to a bevy of psychosocial risks and predicts a steep increase in risky behaviors. While not typically identified as a high-risk group, additional attention needs to be paid to this population. They experience numerous risks, primarily in interpersonal relationships.



Social sciences


ProQuest document ID 2132048774

Reference Type


Book Title

Public Health


Underwood, Sarah E.

Series Author(s)

Vaugh, Michael

Year Published


Volume Number





Saint Louis University

City of Publication

Ann Arbor, MI





Reference ID