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Residential mobility and socioemotional and behavioural difficulties in a preschool population cohort of New Zealand children

Abstract

Background Findings regarding early residential mobility and increased risk for socioemotional and behavioural (SEB) difficulties in preschool children are mixed, with some studies finding no evidence of an association once known covariates are controlled for. Our aim was to investigate residential mobility and SEB difficulties in a population cohort of New Zealand (NZ) children.

Methods Data from the Integrated Data Infrastructure were examined for 313 164 children born in NZ since 2004 who had completed the Before School Check at 4 years of age. Residential mobility was determined from address data. SEB difficulty scores were obtained from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire administered as part of the Before School Check.

Results The prevalence of residential mobility was 69%; 12% of children had moved ≥4 times. A linear association between residential mobility and increased SEB difficulties was found (B=0.58), which remained robust when controlling for several known covariates. Moves >10 km and moving to areas of higher socioeconomic deprivation were associated with increased SEB difficulties (B=0.08 and B=0.09, respectively), while residential mobility before 2 years of age was not. Children exposed to greater residential mobility were 8% more likely to obtain SEB difficulties scores of clinical concern than children exposed to fewer moves (adjusted OR 1.08).

Conclusion This study found a linear association between residential mobility and increased SEB difficulties in young children. This result highlights the need to consider residential mobility as a risk factor for SEB difficulties in the preschool years.

  • psychosocial factors
  • housing
  • lifecourse/childhood circumstances
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