Picky eating is a common disorder during childhood often causing considerable parental anxiety. This study examined the incidence, point prevalence, persistence and characteristics of picky eating in a prospective study of 120 children and their parents followed from 2 to 11 years. At any given age between 13% and 22% of the children were reported to be picky eaters. Incidence declined over time whereas point prevalence increased indicating that picky eating is often a chronic problem with 40% having a duration of more than 2 years. Those with longer duration differed from those with short duration having more strong likes and dislikes of food and not accepting new foods. Parents of picky eaters were more likely to report that their children consumed a limited variety of foods, required food prepared in specific ways, expressed stronger likes and dislikes for food, and threw tantrums when denied foods. They were also more likely to report struggles over feeding, preparing special meals, and commenting on their child's eating. Hence, picky eating is a prevalent concern of parents and may remain so through childhood. It appears to be a relatively stable trait reflecting an individual eating style. However no significant effects on growth were observed.
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