A methodological and theoretical exploration of young children's understanding and experience of stress

Valentine, Althéa Zoë (2012) A methodological and theoretical exploration of young children's understanding and experience of stress. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Background: Compared with the body of research exploring children's understanding of health and illness, children's understanding of psychological concepts has been less widely studied; although research does indicate that young children may have some understanding of psychological terms such as depression. There is also a paucity of research considering young children's perceptions of stress within their daily lives. This thesis explored children's knowledge, understanding, and experience of stress from 4- to 11-years of age.

Method: The preliminary studies provided a methodological inquiry, using focus groups (N=31), semi-structured interviews (N=50), and forced choice (N=39) methods. A larger-scale study (N=353) using a draw-and-tell technique, followed by a semi-structured interview was then conducted. The findings from children were compared with adult online-survey data [N=91/73] and interviews [N=20].

Findings: The methodological inquiry demonstrated that the interview method was the most appropriate to use in this thesis, but that it was necessary to develop a rapport with the child prior to future interviews, in order to put him/her at ease with the researcher. Across the studies, many children reported seeing other people who had been stressed, as well as having personal experience of stress. The themes identified included biological, psychological (cognitive, emotional, and behavioural), and social factors. Some of the youngest children (aged 4-5) did have rudimentary knowledge of stress but this was generally limited to emotional and behavioural factors. Some children in middle childhood (aged 7-9) also talked about social and cognitive elements, and some of the oldest children (aged 9-11) additionally mentioned biological factors.

Conclusion: Children’s understanding became more adult-like with increasing age, although children's conceptualisations were different to adults. The findings have theoretical implications for psychology, as well as practical implications for healthcare and educational professionals, for example, the findings may enable individuals to provide age-appropriate information to help children understand and manage stress, using a biopsychosocial framework.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Buchanan, H.
Coulson, N.
Keywords: Stress and children, Psychological concepts and children
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Institute of Work, Health and Organisations
Item ID: 14439
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2014 07:55
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2016 03:12
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/14439

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