Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Public Health Nutrition: 20(2), 266–273


© The Authors 2016; published by Cambridge University Press. Used by permission.


Objective: To examine whether the association between soft drinks consumption and child behaviour problems differs by food security status and sleep patterns in young children.

Design: Cross-sectional observational data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), which collected information on food insecurity, soft drinks consumption, sleep patterns and child behaviour problems. Bivariate and multivariate ordinary least-squares regression analyses predicting child behaviour problems and accounting for socio-economic factors and household characteristics were performed.

Setting: Twenty urban cities in the USA with a population of 200 000 or more.

Subjects: Parental interviews of 2829 children who were about 5 years old. Results: Soft drinks consumption was associated with aggressive behaviours, withdrawn and attention problems for children aged 5 years. However, the association differed by food security status. The association was mostly statistically insignificant among food-secure children after accounting for socio-economic and demographic characteristics. On the other hand, soft drinks consumption was associated with behaviour problems for food-insecure children even after accounting for these factors. However, after accounting for child sleep patterns, the association between soft drinks consumption and child behaviour problems became statistically insignificant for food-insecure children.

Conclusions: The negative association between soft drinks consumption and child behaviour problems could be explained by sleep problems for food-insecure children. Since about 21% of households with children are food insecure, targeted efforts to reduce food insecurity would help improve dietary (reduce soft drinks consumption) and health behaviours (improve sleep) and reduce child behaviour problems.