Objective: This cohort study describes the prevalence of picky eating and examines prognostic factors for picky eating trajectories during childhood.
Methods: 4,018 participants of a population-based cohort with measurements from pregnancy onwards were included. Picky eating was assessed by maternal report when children were 1.5, 3, and 6 years old. The associations of child and family characteristics with trajectories of picky eating were examined using logistic regression. Never picky eaters were used as the reference group.
Results: Prevalence of picky eating was 26.5% at 1.5 years of age, 27.6% at the age of 3 and declined to 13.2% at 6 years. Four main picky eating trajectories were defined: (1) never picky eating at all three assessments (55% of children), (2) remitting (0-4 years, 32%), (3) late-onset (6 years only, 4%), and (4) persistent (all ages, 4%). This implies that almost two thirds of the early picky eaters remitted within 3 years. Male sex, lower birth weight, non-Western maternal ethnicity, and low parental income predicted persistent picky eating. More often late-onset picky eaters were children of parents with low income and non-Western ethnicity.
Discussion: We found that nearly half (46%) of children were picky eaters at some point during early childhood. Remittance was very high. This suggests that picky eating is usually a transient behavior and part of normal development in preschool children. However, a substantial group of persistent picky eaters, often from a socially disadvantaged background, continues to have problems beyond the preschool age.
Keywords: child eating problems; children; epidemiology; longitudinal study; picky eating.
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.