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Kids 'absolutely' feel parents' stress, 30% worry about finances

Updated 11/2/2009 4:59 PM | Comments 27 | Recommend 7

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By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

Americans young and old appear resigned to the stress in their lives: 75% of adults feel moderate to high stress, yet fewer report it's getting worse, a survey reports today.

And, children and teens are plenty stressed, too, even though their parents may not realize it.

IN BAD TIMES: Experts say play time can relieve stress

The American Psychological Association's annual Stress in America survey not only asked 1,568 adults 18 and older about their stress, but for the first time, 1,206 young people ages 8 to 17 were asked about theirs.

"Children absolutely sense parents' stress," says pediatrician Kenneth Ginsburg, associate professor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

The online survey over the summer by Harris Interactive found 42% of adults reported that their stress increased in the last year, vs. 47% in last year's survey. This year, 44% said their stress remained about the same as in 2008; 14% said it decreased.

But 36% of kids surveyed said they worried more this summer than last; 30% said they worried about family financial difficulties.

People are "probably adjusting" to the higher stress they have faced since the recession, so fewer are reporting increasing stress, says psychologist Katherine Nordal of the psychological association. "I don't think people have the incredible anxiety about the economy the same way they did last year."

Still, 24% of adults in the 2009 survey said they had high levels of stress, and 51% reported moderate stress.

Rosemarie Giovinazzo-Barnickel, a CPA from Staten Island, N.Y., who was among the respondents, was one of hose who said her stress was higher this year. "I've got a lot of things on my plate. I work for a couple of accounting firms. I'm involved in PTA and the state society of CPAs. My general day-to-day life stress definitely has increased."

In addition to feeling their parents' stress, children have their own worries, including doing well in school (44%). But just 34% of parents thought their kids worried about school.

"Parents do want to perceive things as being OK with kids," says Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at New York's Maimonides Medical Center. "Parents are feeling they're shielding them from this stress, but kids are struggling more than parents are willing to acknowledge."

The 1,568 adult respondents include 235 who have children 8 to 17, but they are not the parents of the young respondents.

Giovinazzo-Barnickel says stress today is "almost like a fact of life. People are just juggling more things than they were 10, 15 or 20 years ago."


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