Picky eating is relatively common among infants and children, often causing anxiety for parents and caregivers. The purpose of this study was to determine the key aspects of picky eating and feeding difficulties among children aged 1 to 10years in Singapore and the impact on their parents or caregivers.
In this survey, 407 parents or grandparents who are the primary caregivers of children aged 1 to 10years in Singapore were interviewed via telephone using a structured questionnaire of 36 questions. Respondents were randomly selected from the Singapore Residential Telephone Directory to meet a pre-set interlocked quota of race, sex, and age to represent the population. Quantitative data collected included demographics, body weight and height, respondents’ perceptions of the duration of picky eating, the child’s eating habits and perceived health status, respondents’ attitudes towards picky eating, coping strategies and the impact on family relationships. Bonferroni z-test and t-test were used to indicate significance across groups or demographics, while Pearson correlation coefficient was used to measure the strength of association between variables.
One-half of the respondents reported that the child was ‘all the time’ (25.1%) or sometimes (24.1%) a picky eater. When aided with a list of typical behaviours, the respondent-reported prevalence of picky eating or feeding difficulties occurring ‘all the time’ increased to 49.6%. The highest number of respondents first noticed the child’s picky eating behaviours or feeding difficulties as early as 1year (20.0%). Children 3 to 10years [p=0.022], children of professional respondents (p=0.019), and children with a family history of picky eating (p=0.03) were significantly more likely to be picky eaters. Overall, all ‘picky eating’ and all ‘feeding difficulty’ behaviours occurring ‘all the time’ were significantly associated with caregiver stress when feeding (p=0.000026 and p=0.000055, respectively) and with a negative impact on family relationships (p=0.011 and p=0.00000012, respectively).
The perceived prevalence and duration of picky eating behaviours and feeding difficulties are high. The impact on the respondent and family relationships appears to be significant in Singapore. Parental concerns about picky eating should be adequately assessed and managed in routine clinic consultations.
Keywords: Child, Child preschool, Family health, Feeding behaviour, Singapore