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How is moving linked to one's attachment style and sense of belonging?

After 2.5 years our study has been published in the Journal of Community Psychology. We compared the reports of 465 students. Interestingly, both domestic and international movers report a less secure attachment style, compared to non-movers. Sense of belonging did not appear to be different amongst the 4 groups (but our questionnaire might also influence how SoB was measured).

The fourth group (which we dubbed the "unicorn" group and is most closely linked to the more standard definition of Third Culture Kids) is the one that moved the most both internationally and nationally before turning 18, and has the strongest correlation with a less secure attachment style.

It's definitely not all bad news though, and we try to add enough nuance to the movers/TCK/international story.

To read our open access article for free click here: Abstract

With the rate of both domestic and international migration steadily increasing, the psychological impact of residential migration remains largely unexplored. Attachment, the emotional bond we establish with those close to us, and sense of belonging, the feeling of connectedness to a community, may be vulnerable to frequent migration. This study investigates the association between individuals' early attachment style, sense of belonging, and migration history. A large international sample (N = 465) aged between 18 and 50 years old (M = 21.85; SD = 4.48), completed a survey on early attachment primary attachment style questionnaire (PASQ), sense of belonging (SOBI), and migration. Results comparing non-movers (n = 240) to domestic movers (n = 52), international movers (n = 109), and domestic−international movers (n = 64), indicate important group differences related to early attachment and its relationship to one's sense of belonging. Moreover, insecure attachment was associated with increased migration early in life and, more in general, predictive of a negative sense of belonging later in life. Implications for both research and practice are discussed.


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