The scope of this article is to evaluate the relationship between stressor events that occurred last year in the family of children and adolescents that are indicative of mental health problems in a sample of students from two schools in a city in southern Brazil. It involved a cross-sectional study with 1,075 students enrolled in two public elementary schools. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire was used to assess emotional and behavioral factors of the child and the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) of Holmes and Rahe (1967) to assess stressor events. The chi-square and Poisson regression test with robust variance adjustment for expressing the results in the prevalence ratio (PR) and confidence intervals of 95% were used. The chances of presenting problems of hyperactivity were 1.42 (95% CI 1.10 to 1.83) times higher in the intermediate tercile and 1.37 (95% CI 1.06-1.78) in the higher tercile compared with the lower tercile. With respect to relationship problems the chances were of 1.49 (95% CI 1.15 to 1.93) times higher in the higher tercile when compared with the lower tercile. The results suggest that environmental factors may be strongly related to the etiology of mental disorders in childhood and adolescence.