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Food Insecurity and Child Development: A State-of-the-Art Review


Converging research indicates that household food insecurity impedes children from reaching their full physical, cognitive, and psychosocial potential. This state-of-the-art review examines the last decade of research to: (1) describe the impact of the severity and persistence of food insecurity on child development; (2) use a socio-ecological framework to examine significant proximal and distal factors which may interplay; and (3) outline directions for future research. We conducted a systematic review of six databases of published papers from 2011 to June 2021. The search was limited to high-income countries and children aged from birth to 12 years. From 17,457 papers, 17 studies were included in the final review. Transitioning between food security and food insecurity had a significant and lasting effect on academic/cognitive function and behavior (i.e., externalizing), however less clear relationships were seen for psychosocial outcomes and other behaviors examined (i.e., internalizing). There was significant variation in the measurement and thresholds used to define both food insecurity and child development outcomes. Subsequently, comparisons across studies are difficult. Several future recommendations, including incorporation of socio-ecological factors, is provided. In conclusion, this review supports the link between food insecurity and sub-optimal child development; however, there is an imperative to improve and extend current understanding to ameliorate the causes of food insecurity.


Source: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2021). Food Insecurity and Child Development: A State-of-the-Art Review.