In this paper, plasma sprayed thermal barrier coatings (TBCs) with and without bond coat are stressed to various stress levels under four point bending with in situ acoustic emission (AE) to monitor any cracking activities. Micro- and macro-cracks occurring during the tests are investigated to better understand the failure mechanisms of TBCs. The results show that limited AE activities were detected in the first four stress-relief cycles, while plastic deformation and the greatest AE activity were observed when the applied load exceeded the yield point. In addition, they show that a TBC system that contained an adhesive layer had less AE activity (cracking events) than the TBC without an adhesive layer. In addition, the samples tested at a main speed of 5 micrometer/s resulted in a higher AE activity than the samples tested at 10 micrometer/s. With increasing plastic deformation, macro cracks and surface cracks also occurred. Paper includes a German-language abstract.