Food insecurity arises when one does not have physical, social, or economic access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (2016), food insecurity affects 15.6 million U.S. households. Its effects go beyond the physical consequences that might arise from not having adequate nutrition, influencing subjective well-being and behavior in both adults and children. This 2 x 2 quasi-experiment investigated how current and prior food insecurity influenced depression, anxiety, stress, life satisfaction, and happiness in parents, as well as how it influenced child behavior. Results indicated that prior experiences of food insecurity resulted in increased levels of stress, and depression. Additionally, externalized child behaviors increased from parent’s past experiences of food insecurity, which potentially indicates an intergenerational effect of food insecurity. Current experiences of food insecurity resulted in increased feelings of anxiety and externalized child behaviors. This study also controlled for additional factors, including age, race, ethnicity, income level, education level and whether the participant was receiving nutritional assistance. While many of these variables also affected this study, all reported effects persisted. Overall, these results demonstrate that even when accounting for other factors associated with economic hardship, food insecurity has psychological consequences and alters child behavior. This study could suggest an increased need for appropriate mental health interventions in the early stages of child development, as well ongoing mental health support for food-insecure families.


Wilhelms, Evan




Child Psychology | Community Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Food Studies | Health Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology


Food insecurity, depression, anxiety, stress, child behavior, subjective well-being

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



© Copyright 2018 Jena C. Styka