Date of Award

1993

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology

Specialization

Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Janet Kulberg

Abstract

Events in the Middle East and the war in the Persian Gulf gave impetus to a study to determine how stressful various life events are perceived by children. Research has shown that it is important, not only to understand how stress affects children from an adult's perspective, but also from a child's perspective. Studies have shown that many events, both daily and major life experiences, can create stress in children. Previously identified stress related factors for children include feelings of isolation, family disruptions, learning and school difficulties, and financial concerns.

This research summarizes the results of a study that assessed stress in children, paying particular attention to stressors related to acts of war. Several questions were addressed: (a) Are there clusters or groupings of experiences perceived to be stressful by children? (b) Is war perceived as a distinctive stressor by children? (c) Are there group differences (grade and gender) in children's reports of perceived stressful experiences, particularly those questions related to war? (d) Did the involvement of a family member in the Persian Gulf crisis influence children's reports of war stressors?

Data were collected during the fall of 1991 from fifth and seventh grade children (n=842) in three Rhode Island school districts. Included on the questionnaire were items more typically associated with normal life experiences, as well as war-related items. A principal components analysis (PCA) determined that there were seven identifiable components accounting for 47% of variance. The component labeled War Issues represented 49% of the accounted for variance, however, contrasting the fact that it captured the highest amount of variance, this component was shown to have the lowest mean rating so could not be viewed as a stressor. Fifth graders reported higher levels of stress than seventh graders on five of the seven components. In addition, females reported significantly more stress than males if there were family members involvement in the Gulf War crisis.

The results pertain to the usefulness in planning future crisis intervention programs for school-age children.

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