Parental Stress

The demands of parenting can cause considerable stress for families. Parents were asked how often during the past month they had felt that their child was much harder to care for than others of his or her age, how often the child did things that really bothered them a lot, and how often they had felt angry with the child. Parents were considered to feel stressed often if they answered “usually” or “always” to at least one of these measures. Overall, parents of 11.3 percent of children reported often feeling stress. Parents in small rural areas (9.6 percent) were significantly less likely to report often feeling stress than those in urban or large rural areas (11.3 and 12.3 percent, respectively).

In all locations, parents of adolescents (aged 12–17) were significantly more likely to report often feeling stress than parents of younger children. This difference was greatest in small rural areas, where the percentage of children whose parents felt stress was nearly twice as high for adolescents as for young children aged 0–5 years. Within each age group, the percentage of children whose parents felt stress did not generally vary by location with the exception of parents of children aged 0–5; those in small rural areas were significantly less likely to report often feeling stress than those in urban and large rural areas.

The proportion of children whose parents reported often feeling stress due to parenting decreased significantly as household income increased. In all locations, children in households with incomes below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) were most likely to report often feeling stress. More than one-fifth of children in large rural areas with incomes below the FPL had parents who often felt stress, compared to less than 8 percent of those with incomes of 200–399 percent and 400 percent or more of the FPL. Among those with household incomes below the FPL, the proportion of children whose parents felt stress varied significantly across locations: those in large rural areas had the highest rates (22.7 percent), followed by children in urban areas (18.5 percent), while children in small rural areas were least likely to have parents who felt stress often (15.3 percent).

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