Eating patterns in a population-based sample of children aged 5 to 7 years: Association with psychopathology and parentally perceived impairment

Nadia Micali, Emily Simonoff, Hanne Elberling, Charlotte U. Rask, Else Marie Olsen, Anne Mette Skovgaard

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58 Scopus citations


Objective: There is still a lack of research on childhood eating patterns and their correlates in relation to psychopathology and parentally perceived impact in general population samples. We aimed to determine which eating patterns were more likely to be identified as problematic by parents, and their impact and association with childhood psychopathology (emotional, behavioral, and pervasive developmental disorders) in a general population child cohort. Methods: We collected data as part of the 5-to 7-year-old follow-up of a randomly derived subsample of the Copenhagen Child Cohort 2000. Of the eligible 2912, 1327 (45.6%) children and parents participated in the study. Parents were interviewed using a composite instrument assessing eating behaviors and their impact. Associations with contemporaneous psychopathology were determined using logistic regression. Results: Five eating patterns were identified (good eating/overeating, picky eating, slow/poor eating, delayed eating behaviors, and snacking behaviors); among these, picky eating and slow/poor eating were described as a problem by more than half of parents and they also had high impact. Picky eating was associated with psychopathology across disorders. Emotional undereating was associated with emotional and functional somatic symptoms. A quarter of parents described at least one eating behavior as a problem. Conclusions: Eating behaviors in a general population cohort were differentially associated with impact and psychopathology. Picky eating was highlighted among other behaviors as having negative correlates. Better knowledge of how childhood eating behaviors impact on children and their association with psychopathology will aid adequate assessment and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-580
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • children
  • eating
  • eating patterns
  • epidemiology
  • psychopathology


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