Stress Test for Children

In the Preface to his Revised (2nd) Edition of The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon, David Elkind, Ph.D. wrote about our “tendency to accept the increasing and unrelenting stresses on today’s young people as ‘normal’ and our willingness to rationalize them as actually beneficial for children!”  In the 3rd Edition (2001) he wrote, “Parents are under more pressure than ever to overschedule their children and have them engage in organized sports and other activities that may be age-inappropriate. Unhappily, the overtesting of children in public schools has become more extensive than it was even a decade ago.”

Elkind says, “We can chart a child’s stress level by assessing the stressors he or she has undergone recently.”  The scale below gives an estimate of the impact of various changes in a child’s life that hurry and stress them.  Natalie and I were interested to see that even positive events can cause some stress.  For example, “outstanding personal achievement” receives 28 points.  We decided that it was true that there is a certain amount of stress in wanting and trying to maintain a high level of achievement.  I decided to travel back in time (to the year I was 10-years-old) and took his stress test.  Natalie then took his stress test.  I scored over 300. (Much to my relief, taking the test for this past year I scored 113).  Natalie scored 101. Read on to see what the scores mean.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  (You can post comments below.)

Add up the total points for all of the items your child has experienced in the last year.  If your child scored below 150, he or she is about average with respect to stress load.  If your child’s score was between 150 and 300, he or she has a better than average chance of showing some symptoms of stress.  If your child’s score was above 300, there is a strong likelihood he or she will experience a serious change in health and/or behavior.

Parent dies               100

Parents divorce               73

Parents separate               65

Parent travels as part of job               63

Close family member dies               63

Personal illness or injury               53

Parent remarries               50

Parent fired from job               47

Parents reconcile               45

Mother goes to work               45

Change in health of a family member               44

Mother becomes pregnant               40

School difficulties               39

Birth of a sibling               39

School readjustment (new teacher or class)               39

Change in family’s financial condition               38

Injury or illness of a close friend               37

Starts a new (or changes) an extra-curricular            36

activity (music lessons, Brownies, etc.)

Change in number of fights with siblings               35

Threat of violence at school               31

Theft of personal possessions               30

Change in responsibilities at home               29

Older brother or sister leaves home               29

Trouble with grandparents               29

Outstanding personal achievement               28

Move to another city               26

Move to another part of town               26

Receiving or losing a pet               25

Change in personal habits               24

Trouble with teacher               24

Change in hours with babysitter or at day-care center               20

Move to a new house               20

Change to a new school               20

Change in play habits               19

Vacations with family               19

Change in friends               18

Attend a summer camp               17

Change in sleeping habits               16

Change in number of family get-togethers               15

Change in eating habits               15

Change in amount of TV viewing               13

Birthday party               12

Punished for not “telling the truth”               11

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