Causes and Effects of Stress


In the modern society, stress is unavoidable in children. It may be caused by any situation that requires the child to change or adapt. Upon it occurrence, stress leaves a child vulnerable to other diseases and social issues. Learning the issues surrounding stress is important towards combating the issues.

Key words: Child care, stress, anxiety, causes of stress


Both children and adults experience stress and anxiety at certain points in their lives. It is important to note that being young does not exempt children from feeling just the same as adults do. Children often meet new experiences such as starting school, leaving their parents for the first time, making new friends, learning to trust people who are not related to them and learning new skills such as toilet training, speaking and walking. All these events have the potential to be stressful events in a child’s life. The situation is deepened further if conflict exists in the family. Anxiety is the feeling of wanting to get away from a situation. It is mainly founded on stressful situations. Children suffering from stress risk suffering from anxiety as well. Understanding the causes and effects of stress can provide a good foundation for combating it. This paper seeks to identify the main causes of stress and anxiety so as to assist counselors and parents alike know how to deal with stress and anxiety in children (La Greca, Silverman, Vernberg & Prinstein, 1996).

Causes of Stress and Anxiety

Any situation that requires a child adapting or changing may cause stress and anxiety. Some of these changes may be positive or negative. A positive experience like learning a new skill may result in stress and anxiety for a child. However, occurrences of stress and anxiety are mostly linked to negative changes. As children grow, their anxieties may grow as well. A baby who suffers from separation anxiety, for example, may cling to its parent. Later, the child may experience other fears like the fears of ghosts and scary monsters. At later stages, the child may develop the fear of loss of loved ones. Child anxiety and stress can be caused by external or internal factors (Garmezy & Rutter, 1983).

Big changes in the family

Major life changes in a family can be a source of stress and anxiety in children. Death of a loved one, divorce, or the birth of a new baby are all seismic shifts like that can turn the world of a school going child upside down. The sense of the security of a child is often checked by such occurrences making the child feel confused and anxious. A new sibling can make a child feel threatened and jealous. The death of someone in the family specifically grandparents and people who are close to the child can cause confusion, anxiety, grief and stress (Ann McCloskey & Walker, 2000)..

Child abuse

If a child is abused during the early stages of his life, he may suffer stress and anxiety through their life. The stress may stem from rejection, a feeling of insufficiency and fear. Whatever the case, children should be pulled closer to the family during such times.

Busy schedules

A child who is constantly moving form activity to activity, may feel stressed and anxious especially if he often needs some time to cool down. This is especially the reason why children need to wait for school going age before they can be taken to school according to new systems (Ann McCloskey & Walker, 2000).

Self-inflicted pressure

Children often experience anxiety when attempting to do well in school. Others may want to fit in with peers and be liked by them. Self-generated pressure is especially common among children who are fearful of making mistakes or failing at something (Ann McCloskey & Walker, 2000).

Stress at school

Bullies and cliques are an issue for kids at grade school. Even those children who do not get bullied often need to fit in hence necessitating stress and anxiety. For younger school going children, separation from their parents in the morning and from their peers in the evening is a common cause of worry.

A terrible news event

News events of terror, war, natural disasters and violence can be disturbing to children.  When children learn about such experiences from the real world, they may get worried about similar things happening to them as well or to someone they love. This can be a real reason to get worried (La Greca, Silverman, Vernberg & Prinstein, 1996).

Scary movies and books

Fictional stories can also be a sufficient reason for stress among children. They are often affected by violent, frightening and upsetting from passages in a book and in movies. While some children may be unaffected by certain scenes, it is often necessary to learn what may affect every child and avoid such content. Also, it would be necessary to stick to stick to age-appropriate books, videos and other media (Garmezy & Rutter, 1983).

Effects of stress and anxiety

When a child is exposed to stressful conditions, his body does not analyze the situation to determine how best to react to it. Instead, the body reacts to all forms of stress in the same manner. The stress may be caused by bullying, abuse, or loss in the family, however, to the body; the mechanism of dealing with stress is the same as it would be for a life threatening situation (La Greca, Silverman, Vernberg & Prinstein, 1996).

Exposure to stress for long periods can be very detrimental to health. Chronic stress disturbs every system in a child’s body. It raises blood pressure, increase the risk of stroke and heart attack, suppress the immune system, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress is even destructive to a child’s brain often leaves the child more vulnerable to stress and anxiety.

A low self-esteem leads to loneliness which can have long-term effects on a child’s mental health. It comes with a negative mind frame which is hard to break away from. Adolescence is the best time for a child to develop self-identity. If difficulties occur at this point in their lives, it could affect them throughout their lives. A child whose mother dies during adolescence may develop habits of self-harm like alcoholism. These habits may affect them even in their adult life (Ann McCloskey & Walker, 2000).


Stressful situations are very common among both children and adults. Children often get stressed from small matters like scenes in the news and movies to larger and more stressful situations like abuse, loss of a loved one and separation in the family. The child is usually the most hit in the family. This is due to the fact that he is usually the most connected in the family. The effects of stress are diverse. They range from mental, to social and physical issues. This information could be very important towards resolving stress and anxiety among children.


ANN McCloskey, L., & Walker, M. (2000). Posttraumatic Stress In Children Exposed To family violence and single-event trauma. Journal Of The American Academy Of Child \& Adolescent Psychiatry, 39(1), 108–115.

Garmezy, N., & Rutter, M. (1983). Stress, coping, and development in children.

La Greca, A., Silverman, W., Vernberg, E., & Prinstein, M. (1996). Symptoms of posttraumatic stress in children after Hurricane Andrew: a prospective study. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology, 64(4), 712.

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