What Causes Family Stress?

Fact Checked

iBananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Stress can interrupt family functioning and may negatively influence the general well-being of everyone involved. There are many possible sources of stress, and you may find yourself experiencing multiple at the same time. Though some stress is inevitable in the family unit, too much can contribute to increased dysfunction. Knowing some of the contributing factors will help you be better prepared to adapt to stressful situations and to avoid some of the negative consequences.

Work and Financial Problems

Unemployment, working long hours and other financial or work-related problems can make family obligations difficult. Not making enough money or living in poverty, for example, creates economic strain in the household and can increase stress levels. This can result in constantly worrying about money and not being able to meet the needs of your family. Being unhappy with your job or having little time to spend doing other things can also lead to family stress.


Increased arguments and loss of family resources can result from having to deal with addiction. Instead of only having to worry about typical family obligations, effort must also be spent dealing with problems associated with addiction such as legal issues, encouraging the addict to stop and engaging in treatment. This increases conflict and takes away from focus on other interactions and family issues, says Dr. Elizabeth Connell Henderson in her book “Understanding Addiction.”

Issues with Children

The presence of children in the household can also be a source of stress.Some issues, such as chronic physical or mental health problems, are particularly stressful and require long-term commitment of time, energy and emotion that exceeds what is typically associated with child-rearing, says Dr. Gary W. Peterson and Dr. Charles B. Hennon in the book “Families and Change: Coping with Stressful Events and Transitions.” Excessive arguing between siblings can also contribute to family stress by disrupting normal patterns of interaction.

Stressful Jobs

Stress can also be associated with certain professions that are characterized by possible violence, injury or death. Military families that have to deal with the separation associated with deployment and have limited contact with loved ones may feel isolated, anxious or unsupported, which contributes to stress, says an article published by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry entitled “Families in the Military.” Other professions that may create family stress and worry are police officers and firefighters.