Food and Behaviour Research

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Eating behaviour, behavioural problems and sensory profiles of children with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), autistic spectrum disorders or picky eating: Same or different?

Dovey T, Kumari V, Blissett J (2019) European Psychiatry 2019 Sep;61:56-62 doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2019.06.008 

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Abstract:

Background: Not much is known at present about the behavioural and sensory profiles of children with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), the newest addition to the eating disorder diagnostic category in DSM-V. Our aims were to examine eating difficulties, behavioural problems and sensory hypersensitivity in ARFID children, relative to typically developing children with no reported feeding, mental or physical health problems, as well as children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD; typically associated with a high prevalence of eating problems) or Picky Eating (PE).

Methods: Four hundred and eighty-six parents of children with ARFID (n = 29), ASD (n = 56), PE (n = 143) or no reported difficulties (n = 259) completed (online) the Behavioral Pediatric Feeding Assessment Scale, the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, and the Sensory Experiences Questionnaire about the children.

Results: The ARFID, ASD and PE groups had eating difficulties, behavioural problems and sensory hypersensitivity, relative to the typically developing group, and differed significantly on only some of the dimensions assessed. Specifically, the ARFID group had the lowest food-responsiveness and differed significantly from the PE and typically developing (but not from ASD) groups while the ASD group had significantly greater behavioural problems and social and non-social sensitivity than all other groups.

Conclusions: Notable overlap in eating difficulties, behavioural problems and sensory profiles of children with ARFID, ASD or PE, with more severe aberrations in ARFID (food-responsiveness) and ASD (hypersensitivity and social problems) on specific dimensions, argue for a dimensional approach to improve therapy and management of children with these disorders.

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