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Picky Eating in Preschool-Aged Children: Prevalence and Mothers? Perceptions in South-East Nigeria.

Background: Picky eating is common in preschool-aged children. Reported prevalence rates are mainly from developed countries, and vary widely because of the diversity of assessment methods and definitions. Mothers’ intervention strategies are presumably related to their perceptions of picky eating.

Objective: The study aims to determine mothers’ perceptions of picky eating in preschoolaged children and to estimate its prevalence in a developing country.

Methods: A total of 240 mother-child dyads who met the study criteria were enrolled from the children’s outpatient clinics of three major tertiary health institutions in the southeastern part of Nigeria. Study-specific questions to define picky eating, incorporated into an interviewer-administered structured questionnaire, were used to obtain data in line with the study objectives. Using descriptive statistics, data were analyzed on SSPS and presented in frequencies and percentages.

Results: Based on the adopted definition of picky eating in the study, the estimated prevalence rate was 17.5%. For mothers of picky eaters (n=55), 20/55 (36.4%) of them believed ‘picky eating is always abnormal for children at any age’, 13/55 (23.6%) felt ‘picky eating is always abnormal for children at any age and leads to poor weight gain’, 2/55 (3.6%) believed ‘picky eating is always abnormal, leads to poor weight gain and should be corrected by parents’, 8/55 (14.6%) responded that ‘the child can learn picky eating from older children/siblings’, while 12/55 (21.8%) maintained that ‘picky eating leads to poor weight gain in children’. The mothers’ self-reported intervention strategies included coercion to eat (18/55; 32.7%), the reward approach (12/55; 21.8%), and self-prescribed medications (15/55; 27.3%).

Conclusion: The prevalence of picky eating in this clime is comparable to rates in developed countries. Mothers’ perceptions of picky eating determine their self-reported intervention strategies.

Author(s): Samuel N Uwaezuoke, Kenechukwu K Iloh, Charles E Nwolisa, Ikenna K Ndu, Chizoma I Eneh