Electromechanical properties of a number of ferroelectric films including PbZrxTi1-xO3(PZT), 0.9PbMg(1/3)Nb(2/3)O(3)-0.1PbTiO(3)(PMN-PT), and SrBi2Ta2O9(SBT) are investigated using laser interferometry combined with conventional dielectric measurements. Effective electrostriction coefficients of the films, Q(eff), are determined using a linearized electrostriction equation that couples longitudinal piezoelectric coefficient, d(33), with the polarization and dielectric constant. It is shown that, in PZT films, electrostriction coefficients slightly increase with applied electric field, reflecting the weak contribution of non-180 degrees domains to piezoelectric properties. In contrast, in PMN-PT and SBT films electrostriction coefficients are field independent, indicating the intrinsic nature of the piezoelectric response. The experimental values of Q(eff) are significantly smaller than those of corresponding bulk materials due to substrate clamping and possible size effects. Electrostriction coefficients of PZT layers are shown to depend strongly on the composition and preferred orientation of the grains. In particular, Q(eff) of (100) textured rhombohedral films (x = 0.7) is significantly greater than that of (111) layers. Thus large anisotropy of the electrostrictive coefficients is responsible for recently observed large piezoelectric coefficients of (100) textured PZT films. Effective electrostriction coefficients obtained by laser interferometry allow evaluation of the electromechanical properties of ferroelectric films based solely on the dielectric parameters and thus are very useful in the design and fabrication of microsensors and microactuators. (C) 2001 American Institute of Physics.