Food and Behaviour Research

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Picky Eating in Children: A Scoping Review to Examine Its Intrinsic and Extrinsic Features and How They Relate to Identification

Chilman L, Kennedy-Behr A, Frakking T, Swanepoel L, Verdonck M (2021) International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health  Aug 27;18(17):9067 doi: 10.3390/ijerph18179067 

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The health benefits and importance of family mealtimes have been extensively documented. Picky eating can impact this complex activity and has numerous extrinsic (or external) and intrinsic (or internal) features. Occupational therapists work with children and their families by looking at both intrinsic and extrinsic influences and are therefore well-placed to work within this context.

This scoping review comprises a comprehensive search of key health industry databases using pre-determined search terms. A robust screening process took place using the authors pre-agreed inclusion and exclusion criteria. There were 80 studies that met the inclusion criteria, which were then mapped using content analysis. The most common assessments used to identify picky eating relied on parental reports and recall. Often additional assessments were included in studies to identify both the intrinsic and extrinsic features and presentation.

The most common reported intrinsic features of the child who is a picky eater included increased sensitivity particularly to taste and smell and the child's personality.

Extrinsic features which appear to increase the likelihood of picky eating are authoritarian parenting, rewards for eating, and pressuring the child to eat.

Most commonly reported extrinsic features that decrease the likelihood of picky eating are family meals, responsive parents, and involving the child in the preparation of food.

In conclusion, there is a lack of published papers addressing the role of occupational therapists in the assessment and identification of picky eating in children. There appears to be a complex interplay between intrinsic and extrinsic features which impact caregiver responses and therefore on the picky eater.