picky eating

New research suggests that higher levels of picky or selective eating may be a sign of underlying problems in children.


While many mothers will agree that it’s difficult to get preschoolers to eat a wide variety of foods, new research is suggesting that greater degrees of picky eating may be a sign of underlying psychological issues in children. A study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that picky eating in children may be a sign of something more serious that needs attention.

Researchers assessed moderate and severe selective eating in 917 children between the ages of 2 and 6. The researchers found links between both moderate and severe selective eating and psychological symptoms of anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The associations were worse with higher levels of selective eating. Children who were selective eaters were almost twice as likely to have symptoms of generalized anxiety. Children with severe levels of selective eating were also twice as likely to exhibit symptoms of depression.

In light of the study findings, the researchers suggest that health care providers should intervene when assessing children with moderate to high levels of selective eating. With upwards of 20% of children between the ages of 2 and 6 years being picky eaters, it’s difficult to know when picky eating is truly a problem. The study suggests that in some children there may be underlying causes of selective eating, including depression and anxiety.


Zucker, N, Copeland, W, Franz, L, Carpenter, K, Keeling, L, Angold, A, Egger, H. “Psychological and Psychosocial Impairment in Preschoolers With Selective Eating” Pediatrics Published online August 3, 2015.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net




Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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