Recent developments in soft lithographic patterning enable the integration of functional ceramic thin films on a chip, rather than by adding discrete components to the system. As integrated device applications push the characteristic length scale of materials smaller and smaller, surface and interface effects play an important role, producing significant scientific challenges to the characterization of mechanical properties, performance and reliability. In this paper, we investigate the complex roles of microstructure, interface effects and residual stresses on ferroelectric thin film performance. Pb(Zr0.53Ti0.47)O3 films ranging in thickness from 190 nm to 500 nm were deposited by a sequential build up of sol-gel derived thin layers onto platinized Si substrates. Residual stresses in the films after thermal processing were observed and calculated from laser reflectance measurements of wafer curvature. Field-induced displacements were then measured by interferometric methods for films with well-characterized residual stress states. Results indicate significant increases in film performance with a decrease in measured residual tensile stress.