Association and disparities of food insecurity and exposure to violence: analysis of the National Survey of Children's Health

Molly Bloom, Cassie McCoy, Amy D. Hendrix-Dicken, Covenant Elenwo, Michael A. Baxter, Sara Coffey, Micah Hartwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Context: Lack of access to food is a significant concern for child well-being, and it creates many health disparities and adverse social outcomes. Food insecurity and its many associated risk factors increase parental stress, which are strongly correlated with an increased risk of child abuse and maltreatment. Research now identifies being witness to domestic abuse as a form of child maltreatment, and exposure to violence in the community has been shown to result in similar long-term impacts. Objectives: Given the potential for lifelong adverse effects from experiencing adverse childhood events involving violence and food insecurity, our primary objective was to assess the relationship between the two and disparities among demographic factors. Methods: We conducted an observational study utilizing data from the National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) 2016-2021. The NSCH is a United States nationally representative survey completed by primary caregivers of one child per home aged 0-17 years. We determined population estimates (n=216,799; n=83,424,126) and rates of children experiencing food insecurity and parent-reported exposure to violence. We then constructed logistic regression models to assess associations, through odds ratios (ORs), between food security and exposure to violence including demographic factors. Results: Among the sample, 5.42 % of children experienced low food security and 7.4 % were exposed to violence. The odds of exposure to violence are 5.19 times greater for children with low food security compared to food-secure children (95 % confidence interval [CI]: 4.48-6.02). Indigenous and Black children were 7.8 and 6.81 times more likely to experience or witness violence when food insecure compared to food secure White children, respectively (95 % CI: 3.18-19.13, 5.24-8.86 respectively). Conclusions: Food insecurity was associated with increased odds of children experiencing and/or witnessing violence compared to those who were food secure. The interaction between exposure to violence and food insecurity also disproportionately impacts children with specific demographic factors, notably race/ethnicity including multiracial, Indigenous, and Black children. By developing and adapting strategies to improve food security, it is possible to indirectly reduce the rates of childhood exposure to violence and the long-term impacts that result.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Osteopathic Medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

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