Many of those children experience hunger during their first few years of life, or their parents are hungry and stressed out about food during those years – the most crucial time for a child's development.
The new study, published in the latest issue of the journal Child Development, suggests that such early experience of hunger in the family is likely to make those children less ready for kindergarten than their classmates who came from homes with enough to eat. It shows that kids who experienced food insecurity in their first five years of life are more likely to be lagging behind in social, emotional and to some degree, cognitive skills when they begin kindergarten.
And many previous studies have shown "that kids who enter the kindergarten door behind, tend to stay behind. They do not catch up," says Anna Johnson, a psychologist and an author of the new study.
Johnson and her colleague used data from an older study by the U.S. Department of Education conducted between 2000 and 2006, which followed about 10,700 children born in low-income households in 2000. It surveyed the parents of these children on various aspects of their lives, including the quantity and quality of food in their households.