Emotional-Behavioral Functioning, Maternal Psychopathologic Risk and Quality of Mother-Child Feeding Interactions in Children with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 May 27;17(11):3811. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17113811.


The literature on food intake disorder (ARFID) in early childhood has evidenced psychopathologic difficulties in both children and their mothers and a poor quality of feeding interactions. Only a few studies have focused on three different ARFID subtypes: irritable/impulsive (I/I), sensory food aversions (SFA) and post traumatic feeding disorder (PTFD). The aim of this study was to explore possible differences between the three groups in children's emotional-behavioral functioning, maternal psychopathologic risk and the quality of mother-child feeding interactions, comparing these clinical groups with a control group. The sample consisted of 100 child-mother dyads, of which 23 children with I/I, 25 children with SFA, 27 children with PTFD and 27 children with no diagnosis. The mothers primarily filled out questionnaires assessing their psychopathologic symptoms and children's emotional-behavioral functioning. Then, all dyads were videotaped during a main meal. Results revealed significant differences between the study groups in relation to children's emotional-adaptive functioning, mothers' psychological profile and mother-child interactions during feeding. These findings are relevant for the development of target intervention programs to treat specific ARFID disorders.

Keywords: avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder; children emotional-behavioral functioning; diagnostic subtypes; maternal psychopathologic risk; mother–child feeding interactions.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers*