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The food insecurity of adolescents

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Tween television programming regularly includes non-nutritious food, which likely influences tweens' attitudes and behaviors. Television programming may consider past approaches to tobacco smoking and health messages on television. More attention is warranted regarding television programming by nutrition educators, researchers, health professionals, and industry specialists. In one study, researchers examined food in cable television programming specifically targeting 11- to 14-year-olds (“tweens”). (See Analysis of Food References on TV That Target Young Adolescents.)

And in another research project, one of the few studies of its type has found that a startling 59 percent of college students at one Oregon State University were “food insecure” at some point during the previous year, with possible implications for academic success, physical and emotional health and other issues.

The financial demands students face more than offset their income

You can check out the abstract of that study, "Prevalence and correlates of food insecurity among students attending a midsize rural university in Oregon," published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. You also can check out the abstract of the study online published January 9, 2014 at the Oregon State University's Scholars Archive site.

Contrary to concerns about obesity and some students packing on “the freshman 15” in weight gain, another reality is that many students are not getting enough healthy food to eat as they struggle with high costs, limited income, and fewer food or social support systems than are available to other groups. The findings were published recently in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, by researchers from Oregon State University, the Benton County Health Department, and Western Oregon University. Students at Western Oregon were surveyed as the basis for the study.

“Based on other research that’s been done, we expected some amount of food concerns among college students,” said Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research at Oregon State University’s Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement, according to the January 27, 2014 news release, Study identifies high level of 'food insecurity' among college students. “But it was shocking to find food insecurity of this severity. Several recent trends may be combining to cause this.”

The researchers said a combination of rising college costs, more low-income and first-generation students attending college, and changing demographic trends are making this issue more significant than it may have been in the past

“For past generations, students living on a lean budget might have just considered it part of the college experience, a transitory thing,” said Megan Patton-López, in the news release. Patton-López is the lead author of the study with Oregon’s Benton County Health Department.

“But rising costs of education are now affecting more people,” she said in the news release. “And for many of these students who are coming from low-income families and attending college for the first time, this may be a continuation of food insecurity they’ve known before. It becomes a way of life, and they don’t have as many resources to help them out.”

Most college students, with some exceptions, are not eligible for food stamps and many are often already carrying heavy debt loads

And the food insecurity and adolescents study found that even though many of them work one or more jobs, the financial demands are such that they still may not have enough money for healthy food at all times. Food insecurity is defined as limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and the ability to acquire such food in acceptable ways. It has been associated with depression, stress, trouble learning in the classroom, and poor health.

When similar issues have been addressed with elementary school students, improvements were seen in academic performance, behavior and retention of knowledge. But these problems have received scarcely any attention in the 19-24 year old, young-adult demographic that predominates in college, the scientists said, according to the news release.

Among the findings of this study:

  • Whereas about 14.9 percent of all households in the nation report food insecurity, the number of college students voicing similar concerns in this report was almost four times higher, at 59 percent.
  • In the past three decades the cost of higher education has steadily outpaced inflation, the cost of living and medical expenses.
  • Food insecurity during college years could affect cognitive, academic and psychosocial development.
  • Factors correlated with reports of food insecurity include fair to poor health, a lower grade point average, low income and employment.

Employment, by itself, is not adequate to resolve this problem, the researchers found

Students reporting food insecurity also worked an average of 18 hours a week – some as high as 42 – but the financial demands they faced more than offset that income. These findings were based on a survey of 354 students at Western Oregon University, a mid-size public university in a small town near the state capitol in Salem, Ore. Students at Western Oregon supported and assisted in this research, and Doris Cancel-Tirado and Leticia Vazquez with Western Oregon co-authored the study.

The findings probably reflect similar concerns at colleges and universities across the nation, the researchers said, although more research is needed in many areas to determine the full scope of this problem. “One thing that’s clear is that colleges and universities need to be having this conversation and learning more about the issues their students may be facing,” said López-Cevallos in the news release.

“There may be steps to take locally that could help, and policies that could be considered nationally. But it does appear this is a very serious issue that has not received adequate attention, and we need to explore it further.” You also may wish to check out the abstract of another study, "Fruit and Vegetable Consumption of WIC Participants in Atlanta." Or see the abstract of research on the topic, "Influences on Shopping at Farmers' Markets Among Low-income Women."

And in still another study, on the topic of children, researchers can only speculate on why having a boy gives mothers more "success" in the marriage market – especially in attracting biological fathers to the altar

Fertility treatments are on the rise for women in Sacramento. Also, in another study, researchers found that the birth of a son speeds the transition into marriage when the child is born before the mother’s first marriage. The research in that study found that sons, more than daughters, increase the value of marriage relative to single parenthood.

And more twins are being born after fertility treatments. California births resulting in twins have doubled in the past three decades to 1 in 32. Interestingly, the Sacramento Bee article looked at older women giving birth related to their zip codes.

Sacramento women are becoming mothers more often after age 40. More women in Sacramento County have given birth to a first child between the ages of 40 and 45, and more twins are being born, often from in-vitro fertilization. Also more single women are choosing to give birth or to adopt after the age of 40.

Check out the May 13, 2012 Sacramento Bee article by Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese, "Older women bucking trend of fewer births." In the meantime, fewer younger women are giving birth, mainly due to the economic recession of the past few years. As for single women over age 40 adopting, check out More single women adopting and Single black women choosing to adopt - CNN.

Pregnancy has been put on hold by women in their twenties and early thirties

On the other hand, pregnancy has risen rapidly for women in their 40s, due to the biological ticking clock and the relative career success women over age 40 have had in the workplace for the past two decades. In the last five or six years, stores that sell baby clothing and baby furniture have seen business drop. Some baby furniture stores in the USA have closed. You can check out the statistics from your own state. For example, if you check out statistics from the California Department of Public health, the figures show a pattern that California women are not having as many children as they had prior to 2007.

Just to take one city at random, births in the Sacramento region fell by 9 percent between 2007 and 2010. The California birth rate continues to fall--except with women age 40 and up. Those Department of Public Health figures for California show that about 12 of every 1,000 women ages 40 to 44 gave birth in the region in 2010, up 5 percent from 2007 and up 31 percent from 2000. About 975 local women age 40 and older had babies in 2010, nearly a historical record.

In Sacramento, a woman is presumed to be wealthier if she lives in zip codes with relatively high numbers of college-educated residents, including east Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, upper Land Park and Granite Bay.

The study didn't look at older women giving birth who are married to less wealthy men and who live in poorer zip code areas. This phenomenon applies to women who couldn't find jobs related to their education levels or who married men with less income or less education and live in zip codes where most people didn't go to college.

An example might be a woman working at home in her 40s who has a first child after trying for years to find a job related to her non-technical college degree. If she's married to a man with less income, education, or social standing, she'd most likely be working at home or giving up seeking work and deciding to give birth in her 40s, having not found a permanent job that pays anywhere near what she'd expected from a college degree, particularly in the liberal arts.

Other women in Sacramento having a first child or other children in their 40s can come from all ranks of the economy from doctors and other professionals to women who do temporary office work. Sacramento has groups of women in their 40s who push strollers and meet together. There also are websites for meetings of women over 40 with babies or toddlers.

Additionally, Sacramento is seeing more gay couples having or adopting children. Some of these women are in their 40s. According to the Sacramento Bee statistics, only 4 percent of women over 40 in Sacramento are giving birth in their 40s.

New testing for genetic defects can be of help. Those who have children in their 20s today have not yet sampled the careers they may have dreamed about in high school or college. Society today is more open to women over 40 having a child or two.

And women who started having children in their 20s may also be having children after age 40, particularly if they have large families. Adoption also applies to older couples, including same-sex couples.

It's still risky to get pregnant after 40

If you look at health risks for women giving birth after age 40, the statistics report women getting pregnant at that age range are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related factors after giving birth than women in their 20s. It's rare, according to the state Department of Public Health.

More common are Caesarean sections for women after age 40. Studies have targeted the number of autistic children born to older mothers. Down syndrome is also more common in older mothers.

Note how many women in the age 40 to 44 range have a child with Down syndrome, for example. See, Sarah Palin on Trig, Raising Down Syndrome Son, EXCLUSIVE. Palin discovered she was pregnant with her fifth child at age 43. The youngest baby, Trig, has Down syndrome.

For older moms, genetic testing is available. Risk factors are higher for older mothers whether it's the first baby or any other. Older moms may be better able to handle the stress of raising a child because they have already finished their education and had one or two decades of a career before welcoming a new baby into the family.

Older women may be able to spend more time with their baby, particular if the baby is the first and only child or a set of twins after age 40 and there will not be any other children. The stresses younger women face may not be as great, particularly if some of the economic pressures are not there after 40 that were there at 25.

Some older women are still working and can afford nannies

Most women have made friends where they work or live by age 40 and above. The social networks are in place unless they are moving from one city to the next constantly for their job or business. After 40 many women become more patient with babies as a result of maturity that may not have been developed when they were in their 20s and eager to see the world.

After 40 most first-time moms are in a more stable economic situation as to income and savings then they were at 25 when they first were looking for a job after graduation from high-school or college. It depends on the economic situation. If a couple faces foreclosure, and both are out of work and using up their savings or have been cut off of any income, it's not the time to have a baby, even if both are over age 40 and indigent.

Having a baby after 40 depends upon the stability of the marriage and the ability to afford, support, to care for a child in addition to taking care of the medical expenses of having a high-risk pregnancy or adoption fees. Some women after 40 may choose pets instead. But the expense of health care and insurance helps couples to decide.

Single-parent adoptions for women over age 40 are still possible. There are single women in their 40s adopting children. See the site, Adoption for Single Women | childrenofallnations.com

Single women are eligible to adopt from United Adoption (domestic), Bulgaria, China, the DRC, Haiti, Latvia, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, and Uganda programs. Single men can adopt from Bulgaria, the DRC, Latvia, Peru, the Philippines, and Uganda.

What makes a difference in Mom's life? Whether it's a boy or a girl

When a woman has a baby, does she receive flowers, breakfast in bed and ...a husband? Or does the father of the baby threaten two days before the birth to punch his fist right through her pregnant belly at the navel because she "spent too much money on food," as some women may say about their partner. On the other hand, a 2003 study from the University of Washington reveals that major aspects of a single mom's life are influenced by whether her child is a boy or a girl.

Two University of Washington economists found that an unmarried mother is 42 percent more likely to marry the father if the child is a boy. The study by economics professor Shelly Lundberg and associate professor Elaina Rose is published in the May 2003 issue of the journal Demography. You can check out the abstract of the study online, "Child gender and the transition to marriage."

Does a boy need a male image in the home to reach his maximum potential in school, skill, and career?

"It may be that parents just feel more strongly that a boy needs a father around," Rose said, according to a May 5, 2003 news release, "What makes a difference in Mom's life? Whether it's a boy or a girl. "Or it could be that it's easier to find a husband if your child is a boy."

The findings build upon previous research by the same authors showing that fathers of sons spend more money on their families and work harder at their jobs than fathers of daughters. And other researchers have found that couples with sons are less likely to get divorced than those with daughters.

The 2003 Demography study is the first, Rose and Lundberg said, to document how gender affects the nearly one-third of America's children born outside of wedlock

Using data from the national Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which yielded a scientific sampling of 600 children born to single mothers, the UW researchers found that the unmarried mothers of boys were 11 percent more likely to find a husband than those with girls. When it came to tying the knot with the child's biological father, the boy-girl gap rose to 42 percent.

Lundberg and Rose speculate that some parents see boys as especially needing a male role model, or that some men simply value a family with a male offspring more highly. "Either fathers are more important to boys," Lundberg said in the news release, "or boys are more important to fathers."

Either way, one effect is that girls are more likely than boys to grow up in single-parent households

Since children without married parents are more likely to live in poverty, getting fathers more involved is a major concern to the White House and other policymakers, said Lundberg, who is director of the UW's Center for Research on Families. "These studies are telling us something," Lundberg said in the news release, "about what it takes to engage fathers in the family."

Many unmarried dads, of course, remain active in their children's lives, and the U.S. census has counted growing numbers of parents who live together without a marriage license. Rose and Lundberg teamed up with a sociologist to study more closely the circumstances that prompt parents to marry, as well as how a very young child's gender affects fathers.

Researchers can speculate on why having a boy gives mothers more success in the marriage market

In the meantime, the researchers can only speculate on why having a boy gives mothers more "success" in the marriage market – especially in attracting biological fathers to the altar. "Some men probably see a biological son as their immortality," Rose said in the news release. "It's a little 'me.' "

In this study, researchers estimated the effect of a child’s gender on the mother’s probability of marriage or remarriage using data from the PSID Marital History and Childbirth and Adoption History Files, according to the study's abstract. Researchers found that the birth of a son speeds the transition into marriage when the child is born before the mother’s first marriage.

A competing-risks analysis shows that the positive effect of a son is stronger for marriages to the child’s biological father than for other marriages. Researchers found that no significant effect of child gender on the mother’s remarriage probabilities when the children are born within a previous marriage. These results are consistent with a marital-search model in which sons, more than daughters, increase the value of marriage relative to single parenthood.

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