Food security and family well-being

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Education, Health & Human Development


Each year, millions of individuals in the United States experience hunger yet can not afford to obtain food. This feeling of hunger and uncertain ability to obtain food can have many consequences including food insecurity. Food insecurity is a growing problem which has severe implications for the individual and family. Among these implications are parental depression and child behavior problems. Additionally, there is increasing research pertaining to the uniqueness of rural locales and the increased risk for food insecurity in these areas. Although there is a growing body of literature examining food insecurity, no studies exist that examine the relationships between food insecurity, maternal depression, and child behavior among low-income families residing in rural locales. To shed light on this topic, this study examined the ways in which food insecurity-and varying levels of food insecurity-related to maternal depression and child behavior problems. This study also examined these variables as a function of rurality. And lastly, this study examined the combined effect of rurality and food insecurity on maternal depression and child behavior problems. Sixty-seven low income women were surveyed at either the local Food Bank or the Head Start program using a convenience sample.
Respondents were asked to fill out an anonymous survey about their emotional well-being, child's behavior, and food security status. This study found a significant positive relationship between food insecurity and maternal depression, reconfirmed a well established link between maternal depression and child behavior problems, and showed a significant relationship between food insecurity status and child behavior problems. Overall, mothers who experienced more food insecurity also reported experiencing higher levels of depression and more behavioral problems with their children. Contrary to expectations, this study did not find support for a relationship between food security status and rurality. The best predictor of maternal depression in this study was food security status. This study also examined the best predictors of child behavior problems. While food security status was a significant predictor of child behavior problems on its own, when we added maternal depression in the analysis, food security status failed to account for the variance in child behavior outcomes. Implications of the findings for research, practice, and policy are discussed.




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