Reduced Incidence of Parenting Stress


As measured by the National Survey of Children’s Health,1 children’s parents are considered to be stressed if they respond “usually” or “always” to one or more of three questions about how they felt during the past 30 days: 

  • their child was much harder to care for than other children;
  • they were often bothered a lot by their child’s behavior;
  • and/or they were angry with their child.

This indicator, measured at the parent level, can be calculated as the number of mothers or parents with infants and toddlers (ages zero to three) who are considered to have parenting stress using the definition above, divided by the total number of mothers or parents with infants and toddlers [surveyed] in a state/community.

  • 1. National Survey of Children’s Health:

Toddlers (age one or older) are more likely to have parents report stress, compared to parents of infants. Young children with special health care needs are also more likely than children without such needs to have parents report stress. Infants and toddlers living in poverty are more than three times as likely as their counterparts in more economically secure families to have parents who report stress. Latino parents of infants and toddlers are more likely to report stress than their Black peers, who, in turn, are more likely to do so than parents of White infants and toddlers.

— Excerpted from “The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States”1

The Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health’s interactive Data Query includes state-level data from the National Survey of Children’s Health on parenting stress:

  • Parent receives emotional help with parenting
  • Parental aggravation, which includes:
    • Parent felt child is difficult to care for
    • Parent felt child does things that bother them
    • Parent felt angry with child
  • 1. Murphey, D., Cooper, M., & Forry, N. (2013) The youngest Americans: A statistical portrait of infants and toddlers in the United States. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends.

Population and sub-population estimates are not available at the community level. However, an individual community may be collecting data relevant for this indicator through a specific program or organization, such as a home visiting program. It is recommended that the community evaluate if the data are being collected, how, and for whom (i.e., which sub-populations). If it is determined that no data on this indicator are currently being collected, the community could work with local organizations to determine how to collect these data moving forward. For instance, home visiting programs that are already collecting survey data on mothers or parents in their program might be able to add questions about parenting stress using the definition above. Then, once that is implemented, a community could evaluate if there are other locations, such as a pediatrician’s office, where these data could be collected on other mothers/parents of infants and toddlers in the community.

Research Rationale

Parents who experience inordinate stress in meeting the demands of their role may be at risk for poor health and may be more likely to use coercive discipline, putting their children at increased risk for maltreatment and behavior problems.1

  • 1. McGroder, S. (2000). Parenting among low-income African American single mothers with pre-school age children: Patterns, predictors, and developmental correlates. Child Development, 71(3), 752-771.