The impact of food insecurity on child development in the general U.S. population is well-established, yet little is known about the harm of food neglect relative to other types of maltreatment. Due to the harmful physiological impact of inadequate nutrients and the social impact of food-related stress, it was hypothesized that food neglect would be more likely to impair infant cognitive and language development than physical abuse, sexual abuse, and other forms of neglect. Families of infants (N = 1,951) investigated by Child Protective Services were studied using the second cohort of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW II; NSCAW Research Group, 2002). Results from multivariable logistic regression models that controlled for likely confounding variables showed that the odds of impairment in cognition and language were significantly greater when food neglect was the most serious form of maltreatment. Considering that both food insecurity and child neglect are associated with poverty and parental mental health problems, it will be important for child welfare and mental health professionals to work collaboratively to better the health of these vulnerable children.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health