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Heflin study on adolescent food insecurity, risky behaviors and mental health published in CYSR

Sep 30, 2019

Adolescent food insecurity and risky and risky behaviors and mental health during the transition to adulthood

Colleen Heflin, Sharon Kukla-Acevedo & Rajeev Darolia

Children and Youth Services Review, September 2019

Colleen Heflin

Colleen Heflin

American teens make risk and reward calculations under conditions of scarcity, which psychologists recognize as an environment that distorts cognitive abilities. Most of the research on adolescent food insecurity looks at contemporaneous associations with data from a point in time, sometimes on non-representative samples and without controlling for poverty.

In this study, the authors explore how exposure to food insecurity during adolescence might change one's life trajectory (separately from poverty). They estimate the relationship between exposure to food insecurity from ages 12–15 and the life choices reported by young adults aged 18–25 across a number of domains including sexual risk taking, drug/alcohol use, delinquent behaviors, and mental health. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and controlling for permanent income and a host of sociodemographic variables, including race, gender, age, maternal education, neighborhood conditions, and early family environments, the authors present consistent evidence that experiences of food insecurity are positively associated with the number of children for whom a respondent is responsible. In addition, food insecure adolescents have a higher conditional probability of clinically significant psychological distress.