From Poverty to Food Insecurity and Child Overweight: A Family Stress Approach


concerning this article should be addressed to Karen McCurdy, University of Rhode Island, 2 Lower College, Kingston, RI 02881; e-mail:


Abstract— Food insecurity and child overweight represent major public health problems in the United States, especially for children living in poverty. Recent research has greatly expanded our knowledge regarding the antecedents of these health concerns, yet the causal mechanisms connecting poverty to food insecurity and to child overweight remain unclear. This article reviews the research through the perspective of family stress theory and proposes a developmental model to explain how poverty and its related economic stress affect specific parental resources and behaviors that, in turn, may account for food insecurity and overweight in young children. It proposes maternal depression and family food behaviors—such as the acquisition, provision, and distribution of food in the household—as key mediators linking poverty to food insecurity and child overweight.