Abstract Three studies are reported concerning homesickness in children attending a new boarding school. Homesickness was found to be a complex cognitive/motivational/ emotional state. The first study concerned retrospective reports of 115 pupils at the end of the first year. Seventy-one per cent of the group reported having experienced homesickness during the school year. This same group also reported a higher incidence of non-traumatic ailments during the year and more days off school. Previous boarding school experience was found to have an ameliorating effect on reports of homesickness. Two further studies are described which involve a diary style of methodology. The first confirmed incidence levels of 76% and an ameliorating effect of previous boarding school experience was found. The second study devoted exclusively to homesickness reporting showed incidence levels of 71 %. Homesickness reporting generally decreased during the two-week period of the diary studies; males showed a different daily reporting patterns from females; ‘very homesick’ respondents had different daily and weekly reporting pattern from other respondents. The findings are elaborated in terms of the risk model developed by Fisher et al. (1985, J. Environ. Psychol., 5, 181–195): a geographical move is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for a homesickness experience; circumstantial and life situations act as ‘gate devices’ influencing which variables have a moderating effect.