Edith Chen and Gregory E. Miller of the University of British Columbia say poor children are less likely to have a predictable routine and a stable home; their parents may have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and may not be able to afford to fix a leaky roof, for example.
Miller and Chen propose a strategy that might reduce stress and improve health they call "shift-and-persist." The first part, shift, means reappraising things that are stressful.
"For example, if you get fired from a job, you can feel miserable and lash out at people around you -- or you can reassess the situation to find the bright side. You think, 'I wouldn't choose this, but maybe it's an opportunity to end up in a better job down the line,'" Chen said in a statement.
"However, it's not enough to accept stressful situations. The second part, persist, has to do with staying positive in the longer term -- or holding out hope and finding a broader meaning in your life."
The way most children learn shift-and-persist might be through positive role models, including parents, teachers, aunts and other adults can model healthy ways of dealing with stress, Chen said.
The findings were published in Perspectives on Psychological Science.