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J Am Coll Nutr. 1998 Apr;17(2):180-6.

The phenomenon of "picky eater": a behavioral marker in eating patterns of toddlers.

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Nutrition Department, College of Human Ecology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville 37996-1900, USA.



To determine if toddlers who were considered "picky eaters" had lower dietary scores than non-picky eaters, and if family environment and socioeconomic status were significantly related to picky eater status and dietary scores.


An incomplete block design provided two interviews at randomly assigned times (24, 28, 32, or 36 months) of Caucasian mothers from upper socioeconomic (n=74) and lower socioeconomic status (n=44). Using trained interviewers, 6 days of food intake, two administrations of a questionnaire about toddler's eating behavior, and one administration of the Family Environment Scales were collected in the home. MANOVA, discriminant function analysis, and logistic regression procedures were used to determine significant differences between picky and non-picky eater groups.


Picky eaters had lower dietary variety (p=.03) and diversity scores (p=.009) than non-picky eaters. Mothers of picky eaters compared to those of non-picky eaters used persuasion (p=.0001) and ranked their child's eating behaviors as more problematic (p=.0001).


Toddlers perceived by their mothers as picky eaters had significantly lower dietary variety and diversity scores. Parents need information and strategies to increase the number of foods acceptable to their toddlers and to develop a sound feeding plan.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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