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September 2000Vol. 1, No. 6Measuring the Effects of Stress on Families

A new Urban Institute study based on data collected as part of the National Survey of America's Families (NSAF), attempts to quantify the ways families and children are affected by stress.

The authors of "Stressful Family Lives: Child and Parent Well-being" selected some of the questions from the NSAF, which was conducted in 1997, and used them as a "family stress index." Using a point system, families acknowledging at least 2 of 6 "stressful circumstances" were considered to be "stressful family environments."

The data are broken down in terms of family income and geographic location. The study indicates that children in more affluent families are less likely to live in stressful environments than less affluent children. The study also shows significant differences from State to State in the proportion of children living in stressful households.

The data suggest that children living in stressful households are less likely to perform well in school, more likely to have behavioral problems, and more likely to live with parents who are highly aggravated or have mental problems.

"Stressful Family Lives: Child and Parent Well-being" is available online at:

To obtain a print copy, contact:

The Urban Institute
2100 M St., NW
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 202-833-7200
Fax: 202-429-0687