Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 1146–1153 | Cite as

The Impact of Food Insecurity on the Home Emotional Environment Among Low-Income Mothers of Young Children

  • Monique GillEmail author
  • Maria Koleilat
  • Shannon E. Whaley


Objectives Household stressors, such as food insecurity, contribute to the home emotional environment and negatively affect child development. Little research on this topic has been conducted among very young children. This study aimed to examine the relationship between food insecurity and the home emotional environment, as well the extent to which the relationship may be mediated by maternal symptoms of depression. Frequency of praise, affection, and discipline of young children by mothers were examined as markers of the home emotional environment. Methods Data were collected in a cross-sectional study of mothers of children under the age of five (N = 4231). Logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between level of food security and frequency of praise and discipline of children. Mediation analysis using the KHB method was conducted to test whether maternal mental health mediated the relationship between food insecurity and each outcome. Results Low and very low food security were significantly associated with higher odds of disciplining children with high frequency. Controlling for all covariates, frequency of praise was not significantly associated with level of household food insecurity. Differences in praise and discipline frequency were found by language of interview, maternal education, and employment. Conclusions for Practice Parent–child interactions, specifically related to discipline, are related to food insecurity. Further research should consider cultural patterns and mechanisms behind the relationship between food insecurity and the home environment. Household stressors begin affecting children at young ages, and early intervention is essential to prevent further negative sequelae as children grow older.


Food insecurity Emotional environment Parenting Preschool-aged children 



This study was funded by First 5 LA.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monique Gill
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maria Koleilat
    • 2
  • Shannon E. Whaley
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Community Health SciencesFielding School of Public Health, UCLALos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health ScienceCalifornia State University, FullertonFullertonUSA
  3. 3.PHFE WIC ProgramIrwindaleUSA

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