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Life stories of frequent geographical relocation during childhood and adolescence



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This study focused on the process of frequent geographical relocation during childhood and adolescence. Three adult women contributed to this study providing retrospective accounts of their experiences with frequent relocation within Canada. As a group, relocations occurred between 4 and 10 cities, between 8 and 13 schools, between 2 and 4 provinces, and between Canada and Germany. Based theoretically on narrative theory, supported by a social constructionist epistemology, this study used life history interviews to obtain a deeper understanding of the participants’ experiences, the meanings they derived from them, and their interpretation of causal links amongst elements surrounding relocation. Through the use of narrative analysis, as proposed by Polkinghorne (1995), individual life stories were created for each of the three women who participated in this study. Their stories highlight the complexity of the process of repeated exits and entries into distinct schools, communities, and peer groups. They illustrate the multiplicity of experiences the participants coped with and the many meanings they derived from their relocation experiences. Furthermore, the stories provide causal explanations to short and long-term changes that occurred in their lives as a result of their experiences.Providing support to other reports in the literature, these women described their experiences of fear, anxiety, anger, pain, sadness, and identity loss. Some positive experiences were excitement about change, enjoyment and appreciation of new possibilities, and hope for the future. The three participants connected many factors together in explaining changes in their lives, including family life, personal factors, historical and financial elements, social and environmental context, as well as factors related to their experiences with relocation. Although many different meanings were created at different times, all participants commented on their loss of not having a childhood friend, and on their perception of the value of stability in their lives. Five different focal points emerged as helpful in the interpretation of the narratives: family support and the experience of self-worth; person-environment fit and the experiences of self and belonging; academic ability, social skills, and school environment, as they relate to school adaptation; timing of geographical mobility; and, adjustment-stability cycles in the context of repeated geographical relocation. Implications for support providers and future research are provided.



adolescence, narrative study, childhood, meaning, experience, life stories, geographical relocation



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Educational Psychology and Special Education


Educational Psychology and Special Education


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