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« Causes of anxiety and stress in children, by Maggie Dent »

Written by Maggie Dent: The Queen of Common-sense. Maggie is an author, educator, and parenting and resilience specialist with a particular interest in the early years and adolescence.  

Anxiety and stress in children: The causes

Stress and anxiety in children are on the increase. All parents want the best for their children – we want them to grow up healthy, happy and kind. We want them to live a meaningful life as adults. We want them to be able to live in our chaotic world without becoming overwhelmed by the speediness and busyness of modern life. We want them to be free of stress and anxiety.

Sadly, it doesn't always turn out like that and instead many children are suffering from anxiety. In fact, there has been a significant increase in the number of children suffering from stress and anxiety related illnesses and hyper-sensitive behaviours.

Stress is a new health and social hazard to challenge children in our modern world.

The “hurried child” and the "over-scheduled" child are both modern developments. This is one of the reasons children are becoming anxious.

Margot Sunderland in her book, "The science of parenting: How today’s brain research can help you raise happy, emotionally balanced children", says, "Increasingly, scientists are linking stress in infancy and childhood to the soaring numbers of people suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders from adolescence onward."

Somewhere over the last 15 years parenting has become a type of competition. The hidden stress this places on growing children causes many other issues that delay healthy development on all levels emotionally, socially, mentally and cognitively.

We have sped up the pace of life and living. We live in an instant world where we expect everything NOW. Communication, food, pain relief, results, well behaved children - you name it, we expect things instantly.

This expectation works silently and unconsciously creating stress and anxiety when things do not always happen like that.

Children take ALL of childhood to grow. They need ALL of childhood to learn how to think, learn, process information, behave appropriately, manage their lives, dress themselves, find their way home and learn who they are! We cannot rush this vital development. If we do we risk them becoming anxious.

Main sources of stress and anxiety in children:

  • Hurried over scheduled world.
  • Temperaments and personality.
  • Absence of healthy love and attachment.
  • Too much pressure on children to perform.
  • Stressed parents who rush.
  • Not enough calm, still, quiet solo time.
  • Poor sleep pattern.
  • Too much stimulation from TV, toys and adult commands.
  • Not enough consistency and routines.
  • Too much social change.
  • Shaming language.
  • Threats of abuse and violence.

Busy parents who have poor stress regulating systems also often contribute to their children becoming anxious.

The modern world has created environments that have overloaded children’s stress regulating systems.

Being aware of how to reduce some of the stressful events in children’s lives will help to reduce their stress and anxiety. Tips for reducing children's stress and anxiety will be covered in the next article.


Maggie is an advocate for the healthy, common-sense raising of children in order to strengthen families and communities. She is a passionate, positive voice for children of all ages. 

Visit Maggie's website.

Copyright Maggie Dent, 2010.

NB: Any information contained on this site is not provided as an alternative to the obtaining of psychological advice from an appropriately qualified practitioner.  It is only general in nature. Pleases seek the individual help you need.