Low socioeconomic status and eating in the absence of hunger in children aged 3–14

Randi P. Proffitt Leyva, Summer Mengelkoch, Jeff Gassen, Bruce J. Ellis, Eric M. Russell, Sarah E. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


A growing body of research indicates that one's early life experiences may play an important role in regulating patterns of energy intake in adulthood. In particular, adults who grew up under conditions characterized by low socioeconomic status (SES) tend to eat in the absence of hunger (EAH), a pattern that is not generally observed among higher-SES individuals. In the current study, we sought to examine (a) the environmental correlates of low SES that drive the association between low childhood SES and EAH and (b) whether the relationship between these variables is already manifest in children ages 3–14. Results of our study revealed that growing up in low-SES environments predicted less food security, diminished ability to meet financial needs, and less environmental predictability/safety. Further, the results indicated that reduced environmental predictability/safety in the children's environment interacted with children's current energy need to predict eating behavior. Consistent with patterns observed in adults, children from more predictable/safe environments ate food commensurate with their energy need, whereas those from less predictable/safe environments ate comparably high amounts of food across levels of energy need. These results offer needed insights into the development of environmentally-contingent energy-regulation strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104755
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Childhood socioeconomic status
  • Developmental psychology
  • Early-life stress
  • Eating behavior
  • Food insecurity
  • life history theory
  • Obesity
  • Unpredictability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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