Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Anthony Perry

Abstract

Mental health disorders are rising in children and being referred to as an epidemic. Numerous studies have shown micronutrient deficiencies and poor diet quality are suspected of playing a contributory role in the escalation of certain disorders. However, there is no research in young children focusing specifically on social emotional disorders and possible links to nutrition. Conventional treatment for social emotional disorders in children typically involves medication. Parents are increasingly turning to complementary and alternative medicine to treat their children with a method that is individualized and holistic. The biopsychosocial model provided the theoretical framework for this correlational study that investigated the association between nutrient intake and social emotional functioning. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to determine if diet/health indicators were significant predictors of any of the subscale scores on the Behavior Assessment System for Children â?? Second Edition (BASC-2), Parent Rating Scale -Preschool social emotional variables. Intake of food categories was measured by the amount reported by a sample of 119 parents over a three-day period. Higher levels of processed food consumption significantly predicted higher scores of atypicality. Additionally, reporting a family history of mental illness was associated with lower levels of hyperactivity and depression. The relationships between the other diet quality/health indicators and social emotional functioning in children were non-significant. The results of this study offer an alternative or supplemental treatment modality to psychotropic drugs. With the increasing health and economic burden of mental health disorders in children, the investigation of risk factors such as nutrient intake, is an essential and pressing research initiative.

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