Oxford University Press (OUP), American Journal of Epidemiology, 7(172), p. 809-818
The authors examined the role of food insecurity in the etiology of children's cognitive and mental health problems. Data from a prospective longitudinal study of 1,116 United Kingdom families with twins (sample constructed in 1999–2000) were used to test associations among household food insecurity; income; maternal personality; household sensitivity to children's needs; and children's cognitive, behavioral, and emotional development. Food-insecure children had lower IQs and higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems relative to their peers. After differences in household income, the personalities of children's mothers, and the sensitivity of household organization to children's needs were accounted for, food-insecure children had moderately higher levels of emotional problems relative to food-secure children (β = 0.22, P = 0.02). Differences in children's cognitive development were accounted for by household income, and differences in their behavioral development were accounted for by their mothers’ personalities and their households’ sensitivity to children's needs. Results suggest that food insecurity was associated with school-aged children's emotional problems but not with their cognitive or behavioral problems after accounting for differences in the home environments in which children were reared. Mothers’ personality and household sensitivity to children's needs may present challenges to improving outcomes of children with food insecurity.