Relationship between hunger and psychosocial functioning in low-income American children

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1998 Feb;37(2):163-70. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199802000-00008.


Objective: Using large-scale surveys from nine states, the Community Childhood Hunger Identification Project (CCHIP) estimates that 8% of American children under the age of 12 years experience hunger each year. CCHIP operationalizes child hunger as multiple experiences of parent-reported food insufficiency due to constrained resources. The current study examined the relationship between food insufficiency and school-age, low-income children's psychosocial functioning. The study also assessed the interinformant (parent versus child) reliability and time-to-time reliability of the CCHIP measure.

Method: Two hundred four school-age children and their parents from four inner-city public schools were interviewed using parent, teacher, and clinician report measures of psychosocial functioning. Ninety-six children and their parents were reinterviewed 4 months later.

Results: Hungry and at-risk for hunger children were twice as likely as not-hungry children to be classified as having impaired functioning by parent and child report. Teachers reported higher levels of hyperactivity, absenteeism, and tardiness among hungry/at-risk children than not-hungry children. Parent and child reports of hunger were significantly related to each other, and time-to-time reliability of the CCHIP measure was acceptable.

Conclusions: Results of this study suggest that intermittent experiences of food insufficiency and hunger as measured by CCHIP are associated with poor behavioral and academic functioning in low-income children. The current study also supports the validity and reliability of the CCHIP measure for assessing hunger in children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Baltimore
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Food Services*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Hunger*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Philadelphia
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Sampling Studies
  • School Health Services
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Urban Health