Food insecurity is associated with higher food responsiveness in low-income children: The moderating role of parent stress and family functioning

Sally G. Eagleton, Muzi Na, Jennifer S. Savage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Food insecurity (FI) may increase the odds for childhood obesity, yet little is known about the mechanism explaining this relationship. Parents experience greater psychosocial stress in the context of FI. In these environments, children from FI households may exhibit different appetitive behaviours. Objectives: To examine associations between FI and appetitive behaviours in children (3–5 years) and to explore whether social, emotional and structural properties of the home environment moderate this relationship. Methods: In a low-income sample of 504 parent–child dyads, parents completed the household food security module and the Children's Eating Behavior Questionnaire. A subsample (n = 361) self-reported perceived stress, depressive symptoms, household chaos and family functioning. Children were categorized as food secure, household FI and child FI. Results: Food responsiveness (LSmeans ± SE; child FI: 2.56 ± 0.13; food secure: 2.31 ± 0.10, p < 0.05) and emotional overeating (LSmeans ± SE; child FI: 1.69 ± 0.10; food secure: 1.48 ± 0.08, p < 0.05) were higher among children in the child FI group compared to the food secure group. Child FI was only associated with higher food responsiveness among children of parents reporting high levels of perceived stress (p = 0.04) and low levels of family functioning (p = 0.01). There were no differences in food responsiveness by food security status at mean or low levels of perceived stress or at mean or high levels of family functioning (p > 0.05). Conclusions: Child FI may contribute to obesity risk through differences in appetitive behaviours. For low-income families, stress management and improving family dynamics may be important factors for interventions designed to improve children's appetitive behaviours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPediatric Obesity
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Health Policy
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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