Earlier and Concurrent Food Insecurity Are Associated with Suboptimal Parenting in Early Childhood

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© The Author(s) 2020. Food insecurity (FI) is associated with poor health, suboptimal nutrition, and disadvantaged linguistic, social, and academic development for children. Given the prominent role that parents play in children's development, FI may be associated with parenting practices. Objectives: We aimed to understand how FI and its change over time relate to parenting in early childhood. Methods: Data were from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort: parental interviews and child assessments at 9 mo and 2, 4, and 5 y old. Dependent variables were parenting practices in years 2, 4, and 5 in parent-child interaction, discipline, rules, and routines in general and food-related settings. Stratified by gender, parenting outcomes were regressed on earlier FI and child, parent, and contextual covariates, then additionally regressed on concurrent FI, using models with full-information-maximum-likelihood and cluster control. Results: Earlier FI was associated with harsh discipline (girls, year 5: β1 = 0.0811, P < 0.05) and frequent evening meals at a regular time (girls and boys, years 2 and 4), before adding concurrent FI. Accounting for earlier FI and covariates, concurrent FI was associated with harsh discipline (girls, years 2 and 4: β2 = 0.0489 and 0.0705, P < 0.05; boys, year 2: β2 = 0.0584, P < 0.05), rules about foods (girls, year 4), frequent evening meals as a family (girls, years 2 and 4), and frequent evening meals at a regular time (girls, years 2 and 4; boys, year 2); earlier FI remained associated with harsh discipline (girls, year 5) and frequent evening meals at a regular time (girls, years 2 and 4; boys, year 4). Conclusions: FI was linked with suboptimal parenting practices in structuring a general and food-related living environment, particularly for girls and by the age of 5 y.

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Journal of Nutrition

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