Bowel frequency and defecatory patterns in children: a prospective nationwide survey

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2005 Nov;3(11):1101-6. doi: 10.1016/s1542-3565(05)00848-7.


Background & aims: Very little is known about several aspects of bowel habits in the general pediatric population and the aim of this nationwide survey was to assess bowel frequency and modalities of defecation in children.

Methods: The survey was conducted by 58 pediatricians who were selected randomly and distributed evenly throughout Italy. The following items were reported by each pediatrician in a standardized questionnaire: sociodemographic data, frequency and modalities of bowel evacuation, and anorectal disorders.

Results: The response rate of available completed questionnaires was distributed evenly for the 1-year age group and was 94% (number of patients, 2680; 1-2 years, 442; females, 49.8%). Mean bowel frequency did not vary in the first 2 years of life, it decreased (P = .00001) after the second year, and remained stable until the 12th year; it did not differ between sexes. Mean bowel frequency was reduced significantly in children, both in those younger or older than 2 years, with a positive history of constipation in the parents (P = .00002). Bowel frequency was inversely correlated with the number of persons living and the number of rooms in the child's house (P < .05, P = .008, respectively). Stool consistency, duration of evacuation, and frequency of episodes of painful defecation showed an inverse relationship (P < .001) with bowel frequency. Bowel frequency was significantly lower (P < .001) in children with anorectal disorders.

Conclusions: In Italian children, bowel frequency does not differ between sexes but it differed between the first 2 years of life and age older than 2. Anorectal disorders increase as bowel frequency decreases.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Anus Diseases / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Constipation / epidemiology
  • Defecation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rectal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires