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Role of Family Stressors on Rural Low-Income Children’s Behaviors

Abstract

Background

Exposure to multiple stressors and lack of access to resources place rural children at high risk for adverse consequences. Family Stress Model guided this study to examine relations between two stressors- food insecurity and maternal depressive symptoms, and behavior problems among younger and older rural children.

Objective

To test associations between food insecurity, maternal depressive symptoms, and behavior problems among younger and older rural low-income children.

Methods

Cross-sectional data from 370 low-income rural families across 13 states was analyzed using structural equation modeling and multiple group analyses. Mothers’ education level, household income, marital/partner status, and participation in SNAP served as covariates.

Results

Among younger children, maternal depressive symptoms partially mediated the relation between food insecurity and child externalizing behaviors, while among older children, maternal depressive symptoms completely mediated the relation between food insecurity and child internalizing and externalizing behaviors.

Conclusions

Stress manifested directly from, or indirectly through, maternal depressive symptoms and from food insecurity was related to behavior problems among younger and older rural children; however, the relations varied by age of children. Programs and policies that prevent or lessen both food insecurity and maternal depression may help to lessen problem behaviors among on rural children. Longitudinal studies are needed to rigorously examine causation and directionality among food insecurity, maternal depression and rural child behavior problems, while accounting for influences of child, caregiver and family characteristics.

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Funding

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or non-for-profit sectors. This research is based on data from the cooperative multi-state USDA Hatch funded project, NC1171: Interactions of Individual, Family, Community, and Policy Contexts on the Mental and Physical Health of Diverse Rural Low-Income Families.

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Correspondence to Kimberly A. Greder.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Greder, K.A., Peng, C., Doudna, K.D. et al. Role of Family Stressors on Rural Low-Income Children’s Behaviors. Child Youth Care Forum 46, 703–720 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-017-9401-6

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Keywords

  • Rural families
  • Child problem behaviors
  • Maternal depression
  • Food insecurity
  • Low-income