Session: Children’s Nutritional Status: Malnutrition, Obesity, and Food Insecurity in the US, Colombia, and China (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)

53 Children’s Nutritional Status: Malnutrition, Obesity, and Food Insecurity in the US, Colombia, and China

Friday, January 15, 2016: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Meeting Room Level-Meeting Room 16 (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
Cluster: Health and Disability
Symposium Organizer:
Laura Cuesta, MA, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Daniel R. Meyer, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Julien O. Teitler, PhD, Columbia University
Children’s nutritional status, whether measured as under or over-consumption of nutritious and developmentally appropriate foods, is a major concern for policymakers and social workers in both developing and developed countries. Child malnutrition, hunger, food insecurity, and obesity are associated with developmental delays, decreased psychosocial functioning, poor educational outcomes, and poor health outcomes across the life course. The four papers in this panel use data from the US, Colombia, and China to explore and compare the individual, family, and contextual determinants of malnutrition, obesity, and food insecurity among children.

The first two papers focus on children in female-headed households in the US and Colombia, a particularly vulnerable group in most countries, and explore the role of nonresident fathers in children’s nutritional status. While much research has focused on mothers’ contributions to child health and nutrition, much less is known about the role of fathers.

The first paper, using data from the Colombian Longitudinal Survey of Wealth, Income, Labor and Land, examines the association between noncustodial fathers’ monetary contributions and children’s malnutrition in Colombia, where 30% of children are at risk of chronic malnutrition. Analyses suggest that there is a statistically significant decline in malnutrition among children who received child support.  

The second paper, using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, explores the association of nonresident fathers’ material, social, and physical involvement and risk of obesity among US children, nearly 20% of whom are obese. Results indicate that nonresident fathers’ more frequent contact with children is associated with higher risk of obesity.

Findings from these studies point to the importance of considering the role of fathers when designing policies and interventions to improve children’s health outcomes.

The third paper explores the socioeconomic (SES) determinants of child obesity in Shanghai, China, using data from the 2014 Child Well-Being Study of Shanghai, and compares determinants to those in the US. They find that over 1/5 of children in Shanghai are obese, but unlike in the US, obesity is associated with higher levels of SES.

The final paper examines trajectories of child food insecurity (CFI) in immigrant households in the US, using panel data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998. Nearly 20% of children in the US live in households that are food insecure, and children of foreign-born parents are at greatest risk; however, results show that after controlling for parents’ English language proficiency, CFI is higher only for first-generation immigrant families as compared to native-born. 

Results from these two papers point to the complex relationship between SES and child nutritional status and the need for nuanced and targeted interventions to reduce food insecurity and obesity among children in both the US and China.

The panel will include two discussants, one with expertise in policies related to fathers and child support and another with expertise in the social determinants of health, to put findings in context, to connect them to specific policy and program recommendations, and to promote and moderate a rich dialogue between the authors and audience.

* noted as presenting author
Child Support and Young Children's Nutritional Status in Colombia
Laura Cuesta, MA, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Nonresident Father Involvement and Child Obesity
Lenna Nepomnyaschy, PhD, Rutgers University
Social Determinants of Child Obesity in Shanghai, China: Comparing Chinese and US Disparity Patterns
Melissa L. Martinson, PhD, University of Washington; Yu-Ling Chang, MSW, University of Washington; Wen-Jui Han, New York University; Jun Wen, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China
Longitudinal Trajectories of Child Food Insecurity Among Children of Immigrants
Daniel P. Miller, PhD, Boston University; Jina Chang, MS, Boston University
See more of: Symposia