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J Pediatr Psychol. 1993 Aug;18(4):453-66.

Developmental differences in interactional characteristics of mothers and their children with failure to thrive.

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Division of General Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201.


Observed interactional characteristics during feeding sessions among 68 pairs of low-income mother-child dyads. Half of the children were experiencing non-organic failure to thrive (NOFTT) and half were growing adequately. Children were spoon-fed and ranged in age from 8 to 26 months. Across NOFTT and comparison groups, toddlers (13.5 to 26 months) were perceived by their mothers as more difficult than were infants (8 to 13.4 months). Although there were few differences between the NOFTT and comparison groups on interactional characteristics overall, mothers of NOFTT toddlers were more hostile, intrusive, and less flexible than mothers of NOFTT infants and there was more tension and anger in their interactions. Maternal behavior did not differ among the comparison group. Mothers of NOFTT children may experience difficulties in responding to the increasing demands for autonomy during feeding among toddlers. Finally, when the interaction was observed in dyadic terms, toddlers in both groups tended to be more active and involved than infants.

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