Validating a Food Avoidance Assessment for Children With Food Selectivity

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Abstract

A paired-stimulus assessment is an empirical approach for identifying hierarchies of preference based on stimulus approach, consumption, and avoidance. However, if no response occurs after stimuli are presented or if all stimuli are avoided, a hierarchy cannot be established. This is commonly observed in the context of food selectivity for children with feeding disorders, as most of the food may be actively avoided or passively refused. In the present study, a method was proposed for identifying hierarchies of avoidance for children with food selectivity by quantifying avoidant responses during repeated presentations of a particular food. This study extended previous research on stimulus avoidance assessments by applying it to foods that may function as aversive stimuli during meals and incorporating a validity test to determine whether the most avoided foods function as negative reinforcers in the context of mealtimes. Results suggest that, for some participants, an avoidance assessment quantifying avoidant responses may predict foods that will function as negative reinforcers during mealtimes.

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