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Br J Gen Pract. 1991 December; 41(353): 514–516.
PMCID: PMC1371865

Encopresis in children: a cyclical model of constipation and faecal retention.


Encopresis afflicts one in 100 children causing considerable stigma and parental concern. General practitioners are in a position to help in most cases but are often deterred by the psychoanalytical theories which have been developed to explain this problem. It is currently accepted that children with encopresis tend to retain stools. This leads to constipation, overstretching of sphincters and resultant faecal soiling. Physical and psychological perpetuating factors result in retention once again, thus completing a cycle of constipation and retention. Various precipitant and predisposing factors can maintain this cycle. Once physical causes have been excluded a simple behavioural approach can be adopted aimed at retraining the bowel. By using laxatives to prevent retention, gaining the child's confidence, cooperation and understanding and involving both the family and school, encopresis can be successfully managed in general practice.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • ANTHONY EJ. An experimental approach to the psychopathology of childhood: encopresis. Br J Med Psychol. 1957 Sep 6;30(3):146–175. [PubMed]
  • Bellman M. Studies on encopresis. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1966;(Suppl):1+–1+. [PubMed]
  • COEKIN M, GAIRDNER D. Faecal incontinence in children. The physical factor. Br Med J. 1960 Oct 22;2(5207):1175–1180. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • PINKERTON P. Psychogenic megacolon in children: the implications of bowel negativism. Arch Dis Child. 1958 Aug;33(170):371–380. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • EASSON WM. Encopresis-psychogenic soiling. Can Med Assoc J. 1960 Mar 19;82:624–628. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Levine MD. Children with encopresis: A descriptive analysis. Pediatrics. 1975 Sep;56(3):412–416. [PubMed]

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