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Early childhood eating behaviors and adolescent eating disorders.

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New York State Psychiatric Institute, NY 10032.


Maladaptive eating patterns were traced longitudinally in a large random sample of children. Pickiness and concern with weight were more common in girls than in boys, and the prevalence of pickiness declined with age. No age or sex differences in family contention around meals nor in bingeing were shown. All problem behaviors showed significant stability over the 10-year span studied, beginning at ages 1 to 10. Certain eating and digestive problems in early childhood were predictive of symptoms of bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa in adolescence. Findings regarding prospective risks implicate pica and problem meals in early childhood for later bulimia nervosa; suggesting problems in self-control of eating behavior as well as eating-related family struggles. Risks in early childhood for subsequent symptoms of anorexia nervosa include picky eating and digestive problems.

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