Intrinsic tensile stresses in polycrystalline films are often attributed to the coalescence of neighboring grains during the early stages of film growth, where the energy decrease associated with converting two free surfaces into a grain boundary provides the driving force for creating tensile stress. Several recent models have analyzed this energy trade off to establish relationships between the stress and the surface∕interfacial energy driving force, the elastic properties of the film, and the grain size. To investigate these predictions, experiments were conducted with diamond films produced by chemical vapor deposition. A multistep processing procedure was used to produce films with significant variations in the tensile stress, but with essentially identical grain sizes. The experimental results demonstrate that modest changes in the deposition chemistry can lead to significant changes in the resultant tensile stresses. Two general approaches were considered to reconcile this data with existing models of stress evolution. Geometric effects associated with the shape of the growing crystal were evaluated with a finite element model of stress evolution, and variations in the surface∕interfacial energy driving force were assessed in terms of both chemical changes in the deposition atmosphere and differences in the crystal growth morphology. These attempts to explain the experimental results were only partially successful, which suggests that other factors probably affect intrinsic tensile stress evolution due to grain boundary formation.