Perceptions of stressful life events in Northern Irish school children: a longitudinal study.

Orla Muldoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Adults’ perceptions of stressful life events have been acknowledged as important moderators of the stress adjustment relationship. Until recently, however, there has been a lack of research on children's perceptions of negative life events. This study assesses children's own perceptions of the stressfulness of negative familial, academic and social events as well as events related to the political conflict in Northern Ireland. Method: Developmental changes in children's perceptions of events are traced over time. One hundred and sixty 8-year-old children completed a self-report measure of the perceived stressfulness of a range of negative life events. The sample was drawn from schools in the Greater Belfast area to include children of both genders, primary religious affiliations in Northern Ireland (i.e., Protestant and Roman Catholic) and of varying socio-economic status. Three years later, 113 of these children, then aged 11, were traced through the school system and completed the same measure. Results: Children's perceptions of stressful events are related to a host of social factors. Girls viewed many negative events as more stressful than their male counterparts. Roman Catholic and Protestant children differed in their perceptions of conflict-related events. Perceptions of various types of negative experiences were differentially related to socio-economic status and age. Conclusion: Personal, social and situational factors differentially determine children's perceptions of negative life experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-201
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume44 (2)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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