Psychological differences between children with and without soiling problems

Pediatrics. 2006 May;117(5):1575-84. doi: 10.1542/peds.2005-1773.


Objectives: Previous studies, based on clinic samples, report that childhood soiling is associated with behavior problems and reduced self-esteem. This population-based study investigates the prevalence of psychological problems associated with childhood soiling.

Methods: A total of 8242 children aged 7-8 years born to mothers in the United Kingdom-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children were studied. Parents completed postal questionnaires assessing common childhood emotional and behavioral problems, and children were asked questions at a research clinic concerning their behavior, friendships, bullying, and self-esteem. The rate of psychological problems was compared in children who soil frequently (once a week or more), those who soil occasionally (less than once a week), and those with no soiling problems (controls). Analyses were adjusted for developmental delay, gender, sociodemographic background, and stressful life events.

Results: Children who soil were reported by their parents to have significantly more emotional and behavioral problems compared with children who do not soil. Children who soil frequently had significantly more problems than those who soil occasionally. The rate of attention and activity problems, obsessions and compulsions, and oppositional behavior was particularly high in frequently soiling children. Children with soiling problems reported significantly higher rates of involvement in overt bullying (as both perpetrator and victim) and antisocial activities compared with controls.

Conclusions: The current study finds significantly higher rates of behavior and emotional problems, bullying, and antisocial activities in children who soil compared with those who do not soil. Children who soil frequently are more likely to have these problems than those who soil occasionally.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Behavior Disorders / complications*
  • Encopresis / complications
  • Encopresis / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Self Concept