Date of Award

Fall 1987

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Much of the literature on childhood stress is based on adult assumptions of what is stressful to children. Rarely are young children solicited for their perspective. The present study addressed the following two issues in the assessment of childhood stress: (1) Can young children give reliable and valid appraisals of potentially stressful situations? (2) Do these appraisals differ systematically from those made by parents for their children?

In small group discussions, children in grades 1 through 4 (N = 62) provided information on sources of stress and pictures of a "nervous" person. The child-provided stressors and the drawings formed the basis of a 67 item stress questionnaire which included a six-point pictorial Likert response scale. Frequency of and worry about each event were also measured.

This stress questionnaire, the Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale (Reynolds and Richmond, 1985), Psychosomatic Symptom Checklist, Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach and Edelbrock, 1983), and Life Events Scale for Children (Coddington, 1972a, 1984) were then administered to 218 pairs of parents and children in Grades 1 through 4.

The results revealed that children are capable of stress appraisals which are internally consistent (alpha coefficients from.84 to.96), moderately stable (retest coefficients from.62 to.71), and significantly related to anxiety and psychosomatic symptoms (rs range from.27 to.57).

Parent-child convergence on stress ratings, frequency of, and worry about stressful events, and ratings of anxiety was low (r =.065 to.170). Parents reported that children experienced significantly more stressful events than the children reported. Grade and Sex differences were found in the children's data while Family Status and Income differences were found in the parent's data.

Implications for the direct assessment of stress in children, comparison of child-reported information with adult assumptions, nature of parent-child differences, and use of the stress questionnaire as both a predictor and criterion of anxiety and symptoms are discussed.