Housing mobility & child development: Self-reflection

I made it a point to write all of my academic papers on topics that can further help me to better understand my history, my life choices, and my reaction to current situations. I take pleasure in exploring the literature to know what other researchers have reported, and deduct my own conclusions on where to go from here. As a graduate student in the field of Social Work, I know I can take advantage of my load of assignments to write and research my own life… talking about fun in grad school 😉

So last semester, I submitted an annotated bibliography on the impact of housing instability on child development. I researched and scanned through about 20 articles but chose the 10 most relevant for the paper. The researchers reported that children who experienced high housing mobility(moved 2 or 3 times)  in early years( before the age of 5) tend to exhibit poor cognitive abilities, externalizing behavior, early drug use or pregnancies.  Moving multiple times during these sensitive developmental age can impede a child’s ability to progress in school, develop age-appropriate verbal ability, or learn to resolve conflict accordingly. These children miss the opportunities to form lasting relationship at an age where they are learning to trust or distrust because at times they have to change schools.  They experience inconsistencies at a period where they need stability for the brain to properly develop. Thus as a result, they internalize behaviors and express their frustrations through uncontrollable outburst, drug use, or loss of interest in school- sometimes due to lack of focus. On the other hand, these behaviors are not always a direct effect to moving. There are some cases where children experience high housing mobility without any adverse impact on their development such as moving from high to low poverty, family with high social economic status (SES) because poor children are more impacted by multiple moves and also children with high social capital who are engaged in their communities or extracurricular activities.

Self-reflection:

How does that relate to me? Well I lived in 7 houses by the time I was 18 years of age. In term of housing stability, I lived with my grandmother from birth until 6 years old, and a cousin from 10 to 16 years then after marriage from 21 until present (6 years), everything in between lasted 6 months to a year. The foster care system in Haiti is not as established as in the US. Thus in these countries, high level of housing mobility means living in relatives’ homes from a couple of years or until you become an adult. In most cases, it is almost a custom for parents to leave their children to be raised by grandparents while they travel to other developed countries to be able to provide for them financially. In my case, the “parental care” was fairly over after my grandmother’s house. After those first 6 years, I had to grow up and grow up fairly fast. I became a young mother to my little brother everywhere we go. We moved a lot because once the care started to shift to severe neglect, I decided my brother and I should go somewhere else. My parents always provided for us financially thus that made it a bit easier to be welcomed to some other relatives’ home.  So after reading these articles, I realized that probably the main reason I am not completely f***ed up is because the instability started at the age of 7. More specifically, one of the article mentioned that children who experienced high housing mobility during infancy show consistent low cognitive abilities whereas those who experienced housing mobility during adolescence rebounded later on in life. There you have it!

Most people who hear of my childhood always show the same “What a horror, OMG” expression on their face. Then it follows by sentences like these: But you are doing so well in your life! You attend a Ivy league school for godsake. You are good at your job. You are so successful. You are one strong woman, I don’t know how you do it.   To these statements, I wish I could answer ” well I did not start experiencing instability until I was 7 or 8.” (lol) Yes, that would mean explaining the whole research. If we are being honest, I did not come out totally unscathed. However, I never did drug in my life, never flunked a single class since high school except physics, and I am a decent and sane person 85% of the times. That’s more than I could ever asked for. I am grateful for those first 6 years of my life. I am grateful for the mannerism, the moral code, the goal-orientedness, the strong will that my grandmother instilled in me during these years. And my goodness, I do not know how I could remember all these things, but I swear that part of my childhood I remember it like it is happening this day.

Lesson of the day: Do Not Ever UnderEstimate A Toddler. haha

 

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