Objectives: To validate the concept of parent-reported picky eating using objective, laboratory-based measures and to identify both child and parental precursors and concomitants of picky eating.
Method: One hundred thirty-five infants were monitored from birth to 5.5 years. Behavioral measures of picky eating were obtained from standardized feedings at ages 3.5 and 5.5 years in the laboratory and at home. Child precursors were measures of infant sucking behavior; parental precursors were disinhibition of eating, restrained eating, body dissatisfaction, and body mass index. Parentally reported attitudes and behaviors thought to be related to pickiness and parental concomitants were taken from the Stanford Feeding Questionnaire. Child Temperament was assessed by the Children's Behavior Questionnaire.
Results: Picky eaters ate fewer foods and were especially more likely to avoid vegetables. Picky girls decreased their caloric intake between ages 3.5 and 5.5, whereas all other children increased their caloric intake. None of the included parental precursors was significantly related to pickiness. Picky eaters demonstrated a different sucking pattern with fewer sucks per feeding session at weeks 2 and 4. Finally, picky children displayed more parent-reported negative affect than nonpicky children.
Conclusions: Parentally reported picky eating is associated with a consistent pattern of inhibited and selective eating beginning in infancy.