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Intergenerational Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Food Insecurity

May 12, 2016

New research from Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities has added evidence on the relationship between food insecurity and adverse child experiences (ACEs).

One study of 1255 female caregivers of young children, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that depressive symptoms and ACEs were independently associated with household and child food insecurity, and depressive symptoms modified the association between ACEs and household and child food insecurity. Caregivers reporting both depressive symptoms and four or more ACEs were 12.3 times more likely to report low food security, 28.8 times as likely to report very low food security, and 17.6 times as likely to report child food insecurity compared with those reporting no depressive symptoms and no ACEs. In addition to enhancing nutrition assistance and other benefits to buffer families from food insecurity, researchers recommended that social service providers adopt trauma-informed practices to support families exposed to adversity.

In a second qualitative analysis, published in Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, multigenerational data collected from 31 mothers showed consistent associations between hunger and violence across four generations (participants’ parents and grandparents and children). Parents recognized how their own childhood experiences and struggles with adversity could potentially transfer to their children, and worked hard to avoid this type of transfer. To prevent intergenerational transmission of disadvantage, Dornsife School of Public Health researchers recommended interventions that simultaneously address health and development of children as well as economic stability and mental health of caregivers, among other policy and program recommendations.

The research team includes Health Management and Policy faculty members Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH and Sandra Bloom, MD, as well as Dornsife SPH alumni Jing Sun, MD, PhD ‘15, MPH; Molly Knowles, MPH ‘13; and Falguni Patel, MPH ’14, along with collaborators from Boston University.