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The Effects of Hunger on Children

by
author image Andrea Agnew
Andrea Agnew has been writing professionally since 1993. Her articles have appeared in journals such as "Perceptual and Motor Skills" and "Traditionally Black Colleges and Universities Research Journal." She is a psychology instructor and holds a Master of Science degree in psychology from the University of South Alabama. She is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership, policy and law at Alabama State University.
The Effects of Hunger on Children
Approximately 13 million American children live with or are at risk of experiencing hunger. Photo Credit robertprzybysz/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

Most people dislike feeling hunger and kids are no exception. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines hunger as a physiological state of discomfort resulting from a chronic shortage of food intake. Hunger has been linked to disease, pain, physical weakness, anxiety and death. With over 40 percent of households living below the poverty level in the United States, many children are affected by hunger. Approximately 13 million American children live with or are at risk of experiencing hunger. Because childhood represents such a critical period in human development, the long-term impact of hunger on children can be extremely detrimental.

Hunger Hits Physically

Good nutrition has a direct link to proper physical growth and development for kids. Children who experience chronic, unsatisfied hunger are at risk of not getting the appropriate intake of necessary vitamins and minerals to ensure reaching developmental milestones. A child might be shorter than average height and could be significantly underweight. Some kids succumb to common childhood diseases because hunger lowers immunity necessary for warding off illnesses. Kids suffering from hunger often have poorer overall physical health.

Cognitive Effects of Hunger

Your youngster's cognitive development might suffer from hunger. Children experiencing chronic hunger could develop learning disabilities or other cognitive impairments. Many kids will have trouble focusing in an academic setting due to a lack of energy and motivation. A hungry child often has ongoing health issues, so he may have frequent school absences that also make it difficult to learn. Your hungry child might fall behind in grade levels.

Feeling Hungry Impacts Sociability

A child experiencing hunger might feel embarrassed and ashamed. These feelings of embarrassment could affect your child's interaction with peers or your youngster could engage in negative interactions such as fighting or stealing. The youngster could be socially isolated due to academic struggles, so he may be older than classmates. A child who feels chronically hungry could show unusual signs of stress and anxiety.

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