Background: Food insecurity may negatively impact children’s nutritional status by affecting parenting quality. Because parents have a strong influence on their children’s eating and food choices, examining the effects of food insecurity on parenting may provide important insights into obesity prevention efforts.

Objectives: This study explored whether food insecurity was associated with parental self-efficacy and parenting practices related to fruit and vegetable consumption.

Methods: Secondary analysis was performed using baseline data from 31 mothers of 5-8 year old overweight or obese children who had participated in a pilot obesity treatment program. Household food security status, fruit and vegetable parental self-efficacy (modeling/socialization, planning/encouraging and availability/accessibility) and fruit and vegetable parenting practices (structure, responsiveness, non-directive control, and external control) were assessed using validated measures. Students' t-test investigated differences in subscales by food security status.

Results: There were no significant differences in fruit and vegetable parenting practices and parental self-efficacy between food secure and insecure groups. There was a trend towards a decrease in parental self-efficacy for making fruit and vegetables available in the home among food insecure parents (p=.06).

Conclusions: In this small sample no significant associations were found between food insecurity and fruit and vegetable parenting practices and parental self-efficacy. However, the trend observed in this exploratory analysis supports further hypothesis-driven research with a larger sample size able to detect more subtle differences.

Key Take Away Points

  • Food insecurity may affect parents’ self-efficacy to make fruit and vegetables available for children.
  • Food insecurity may indirectly affect children’s fruit and vegetable intake by decreasing parental competence.

Author Biography

Angela Hilmers, MD, MS, is a research coordinator at Children’s Nutrition Research Center/Baylor College of Medicine and a Master’s candidate in the Department of International Health and Nutrition at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Karen Weber Cullen, DrPH, RD, is Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine. Her primary research interest area is the prevention of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases.

Teresia M. O’Connor, MD, MPH, is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center. Dr. O’Connor’s main research interest is the implementation and evaluation of obesity interventions targeting parenting practices in the pediatric primary care setting.

Carolyn E. Moore, PhD, RD, LD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at Texas Woman’s University. Dr. Moore’s research has focused on vitamin D, functional ingredients, clinical practice, and cardiovascular disease.


This work is a publication of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA/ARS) Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, and Baylor College of Medicine and is funded in part by the USDA/ARS. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the funding agencies or Baylor College of Medicine, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement from the funding agencies, the USDA, or Baylor College of Medicine.