This article describes the results of the Childhood Stress study, which investigates the link between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) including neglect, abuse, and household instability and current household food insecurity.
In this study, we interviewed thirty-one female caregivers of children under the age of four who reported low or very low household food security. Two-thirds of the mothers interviewed reported four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Mothers who reported very low food security, a more severe form of food insecurity which includes limiting their food intake, disordered eating patterns, and experiences of hunger, were more likely to report four or more ACEs.
Participants described the negative impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on their emotional health, school performance and ability to maintain employment. In turn, these experiences hindered their ability to protect their children from food insecurity.
These findings suggest a need for greater support for families experiencing very low food security, including: safe places to live and care for their children, access to behavioral health support, and public assistance programs that recognize and address widespread exposure to trauma and violence.