What would your answer be if someone asked, “What affects a child’s behaviour?”

  • Genetics
  • Socialization
  • Faith & Religion
  • Culture

Rarely would the answer include hunger. But believe it or not, hunger plays a major part in behaviour. Look at the most basic form of behaviour, newborn babies. How do you known when babies are hungry: their behaviour changes. Most definitely you won’t see a hungry baby laughing and playing. Likewise, the statement “a hungry man is an angry man” is factual.

from bellaonline.com

Narrowing down to school-age children, hunger will affect them both academically, and socially. Teachers may report a child as lazy, disruptive, withdrawn/antisocial, or they may find the student is unable to grasp the simple concepts being taught in class. It is important to note that it isn’t absolute that this is simply a lazy child, a disruptive child, an antisocial child, or a child that isn’t smart. It could just be that the child is hungry. Yes: HUNGRY.

Hunger is not simply a craving. Hunger is a physiological condition that is brought about by the anticipation of a meal. Hunger may include a long-term painful experience brought on by lack of food over a prolonged period. Hunger can lead to starvation, stunted growth and development, and even death. Depending on the duration of hunger, the child’s behaviour may be change immediately by simply feeding them.

From as far back as 1998, Dr Murphy et al conducted and published research in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry that revealed “Hungry and at-risk for hunger children were twice as likely as not-hungry children to be classified as having impaired functioning by parent and child report. Teachers reported higher levels of hyperactivity, absenteeism, and tardiness among hungry/at-risk children than not-hungry children.”


In addition, the Food Research and Action Center’s Breakfast for Learning report in 2010 reported that, “hungry children have lower math scores, are more likely to have to repeat a grade, are more likely to be hyperactive, absent or tardy, and have more behavioural and emotional problems in comparison to other children.”

Research coming out of Barbados, in conjunction with Harvard Medical School has recently confirmed that long-term changes occur in children who were hospitalized because of severe starvation. Although they had caught up with their physical growth, “these adults were more anxious, less sociable, less interested in new experiences and more hostile than those who were well-nourished throughout childhood”, as reported by  Dr Janina Galler and her team in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Now that you know that hunger affects your child’s behaviour, academically and socially, ensure that your child is properly fed. The best way of doing so is to ensure that they have the most important meal of the day:



Our Guest Blogger is Chenell Griffiths of Nutribites. 

Check her out at nutribites.webs.com or follow her on twitter @NutriBites