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Residential mobility and socioemotional and behavioural difficulties in a preschool population cohort of New Zealand children
  1. Kim Nathan1,
  2. Oliver Robertson1,
  3. Polly Atatoa Carr2,
  4. Philippa Howden-Chapman1,
  5. Nevil Pierse1
  1. 1Department of Public Health, University of Otago Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Kim Nathan, Department of Public Health, University of Otago Wellington, Wellington 6242, New Zealand; kim.nathan{at}


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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  • Contributors KN conceptualised the study, undertook the statistical analyses, drafted the manuscript and carried out revisions. OR undertook data curation including transforming and integrating data for analysis, and critically reviewed the manuscript. PAC, PH-C and NP provided supervision and guidance on the conceptualisation and design of the study, the statistical analyses and the interpretation of results, and critically reviewed the manuscript. All authors approved the final version as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work. The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted.

  • Funding KN received a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship. The study received support from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (grant 15-429).

  • Disclaimer The funders played no role in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of the data, writing of the report or in the decision to submit the article for publication. The results in this report are not official statistics. They have been created for research purposes from the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), managed by Statistics New Zealand. The opinions, findings, recommendations and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the authors, not Statistics New Zealand. Access to the anonymised data used in this study was provided by Statistics New Zealand under the security and confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act 1975. Only people authorised by the Statistics Act 1975 are allowed to see data about a particular person, household, business or organisation, and the results in this article have been confidentialised to protect these groups from identification and to keep their data safe. Careful consideration has been given to the privacy, security and confidentiality issues associated with using administrative and survey data in the IDI. Further detail can be found in the privacy impact assessment for the Integrated Data Infrastructure available online ( The results are based in part on tax data supplied by Inland Revenue to Statistics NZ under the Tax Administration Act 1994. This tax data must be used only for statistical purposes, and no individual information may be published or disclosed in any other form, or provided to Inland Revenue for administrative or regulatory purposes. Any person who has had access to the unit record data has certified that they have been shown, have read and have understood section 81 of the Tax Administration Act 1994, which relates to secrecy. Any discussion of data limitations or weaknesses is in the context of using the IDI for statistical purposes, and is not related to the data’s ability to support Inland Revenue’s core operational requirements.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available.