Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Exploring the Effects of Food Insecurity on Preschoolers’ Cognitive, School Readiness, and Social-Emotional Outcomes

J. Joshua Byrd, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


There is substantial evidence linking household food insecurity (FI) to child cognitive, general school readiness, and social-emotional outcomes both directly (Johnson & Markowitz, 2018a; 2018b) and indirectly through parent depression (Bronte-Tinkew et al., 2007; Zaslow et al., 2009) and qualities of parent-child relationships (i.e., closeness and conflict; Gee & Asim, 2019; Helton et al., 2018; Jackson et al., 2018). However, gaps remain in our understanding of these associations in the context of low-income, kindergarten-bound preschoolers and therefore is the focus of the current study. Two aims were investigated: to elucidate the direct effects of household FI on older preschoolers’ cognitive, school-readiness, and social-emotional outcomes; and to determine if FI is indirectly associated with child outcomes working through parent depression and parent-child closeness and conflict. The study sample included 1,387 preschool children averaging 64.2 (SD = 4.13) months of age enrolled in the 21 sites of the Educare Learning Network from the 2014-2015 school year to the 2018-2019 school year. Seven main findings emerged: (1) preschoolers experiencing FI scored significantly lower on school readiness than their food-secure peers; (2) FI was not directly associated with any child outcome across multivariate analyses; (3) FI was significantly and positively related to parent-child conflict and parent depression in multivariate models (4) parent depression was not significantly associated with child outcomes in multivariate models; (5) parent-child closeness was significantly and positively associated with measures of language and social-emotional development in multivariate models; (6) FI was significantly and positively associated with a Spanish language measure and one social-emotional outcome (behavior concerns) through parent-child conflict; and (7) the interaction of parent-child conflict and parent depression negatively predicted school readiness and social-emotional protective factors scores. The findings from the present study represent a contribution to the field in what is known about downstream effects of FI on child cognitive, school readiness, and social-emotional outcomes.

Subject Area

Individual & family studies|Public health

Recommended Citation

Byrd, J. Joshua, "Exploring the Effects of Food Insecurity on Preschoolers’ Cognitive, School Readiness, and Social-Emotional Outcomes" (2021). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28318503.