Several common theoretical frameworks have posited causal pathways between picky eating, pressuring feeding, and growth in early childhood. The evidence to support these pathways is limited. This observational cohort study sought to examine the cross-lagged associations between mother-reported pressuring feeding, mother-reported child picky eating, and measured weight-for-length z-score (WLZ) across child ages 21, 27, and 33 months (n = 244). Cross-lagged analysis was used to evaluate longitudinal associations between these three constructs. The sample was 50.5% white, 52.3% male and 37.8% of mothers had a high school education or less. Mean WLZ was 0.52, 0.41, and 0.38 at each age, respectively. Pressuring feeding, picky eating, and WLZ each tracked strongly from 21 to 33 months. There were concurrent associations between pressuring feeding and picky eating. However, there were no prospective associations between pressuring feeding and future WLZ; WLZ and future pressuring feeding; pressuring feeding and future picky eating; picky eating and future pressuring feeding; or picky eating and future WLZ. Our results do not support causal relationships between picky eating, pressuring feeding, and growth in toddlerhood. Future work that examines alternative mechanisms shaping growth in early childhood is needed.
Keywords: Child; Feeding; Growth; Infant.
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