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Description: Even if you have not had to move (from one house or apartment to another) I bet you know that moving is stressful, right? If I told you that research shows that people who move show higher levels of stress when compared to people who have not moved recently you would not be surprised would you? Given this I suspect it would also not surprise you to hear that research shows that people who move a lot are significantly more stressed than people who have recently moved just once or not at all. Makes sense, right? But think about this a bit more. It could be that your “knowing” that moving is stressful is biasing your interpretation of the research I just mentioned. If people who move report more stress than people who do not move and if people who move a LOT report more stress than people who move less or not at all then it is clearly the moving that is causing the stress right? OK, but what if moving is a symptom rather than a cause? Why might people move? Or more pointedly, why might people have to move? Noting from a distance that two things like moving and stress are related or correlated does not tell us about the nature or direction of the causal relationships that might be involved. Certainly moving can cause stress but I bet you can think of (hypothesize about) a number of other things that cause stress and which, once they have occurred, could also result in a move. Yes, Moves and stress are associated but are they causally connected with moves always leading to stress? THAT is the causal question. So, here is a more important research question. How would you design a study to try and figure out how stress and moving are related? Also, if you were not actually designing the study from scratch (e.g., randomly assigning half of your sample to move and half to not move to see how much stress members of each group experience) but, instead, working with data from a larger population level survey or census what sort of data would you need to get access to in order to address this causal question? Once you have your thoughts in order have a read through the article linked below that (partially) describes one such study and, as you read it, try and decide if the study does address the causal question and if you are not sure, figure out what else you would need to know about the study to decide this matter.

Source: Measuring the stress of moving house, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: December 15, 2022

Image by Stephano Ferrario from Pixabay

Article Link:

When a psychology graduate student is defending their master’s thesis or their doctoral dissertation and the research study or studies they included they are often asked what they see as the impact or potential impacts of their work. In some cases the students will talk about how their research suggests some ways in which some social policies or programs could or should be changed in ways that would provide greater benefit or less harm to some segment of the population. The authors of the research discussed in the linked article do this when they recommend “implementing housing strategies that ensure housing can be sustained over time.” In thesis oral exams such statements are often followed up with additional questions asking if the causal connections and directions stated (moving causes stress) have been clearly demonstrated and, further, if the results of a single study are sufficiently clear and powerful enough to properly support the recommended changes in social or governmental polies and programs. Clearly demonstrating causality in research can be quite important. Did the information in the linked article convince or assure you that this was accomplished in the research study that was discussed? I would have to say, based on the information included in the article, I am not sure. The original research article itself is a bit more informative, though it is a bit of a slog to get through. I think the issue is an important one and is somewhat informed by the search discussed but I also think more research is needed (isn’t it always?).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might moving be stressful or why might moving cause stress?
  2. What are some alternative causal possibilities? That is, how might stress lead to rather than follow from a move?
  3. Based on your reading of the linked article what does the research project it describes sort out and/or fail to sort out about the relationship between moving and stress? Are the recommended policy/program changes warranted?

References (Read Further):

Cheung, K. S., & Wong, D. (2022). Measuring the Stress of Moving Homes: Evidence from the New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure. Urban Science, 6(4), 75. Link

Raviv, A., Keinan, G., Abazon, Y., & Raviv, A. (1990). Moving as a stressful life event for adolescents. Journal of Community Psychology, 18(2), 130-140. Link

Thomas, E. (2017, November). Exploring residential mobility: Learning about how young children experience the transition of moving house and how adults can best support them. In TACTYC Conference, Birmingham. Link

Fokkema, T., & Van Wissen, L. (1997). Moving plans of the elderly: A test of the stress-threshold model. Environment and Planning A, 29(2), 249-268. Link

Marsland, D., White, C., & Manthorpe, J. (2014). Relocation, Portability and Social Care Practice: Moving House and Moving Care: A Research Study. Link

Ponic, P., Varcoe, C., Davies, L., Ford-Gilboe, M., Wuest, J., & Hammerton, J. (2011). Leaving≠ moving: Housing patterns of women who have left an abusive partner. Violence Against Women, 17(12), 1576-1600. Link

Coulter, R., Van Ham, M., & Feijten, P. (2011). A longitudinal analysis of moving desires, expectations and actual moving behaviour. Environment and Planning A, 43(11), 2742-2760. Link

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