Picking and Nibbling in Children and Adolescents with Eating Disorders

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Picking and nibbling (P&N), defined as eating in an unplanned and repetitious way between meals and snacks, is prevalent among adults with eating disorders (EDs), but unexamined among youth with EDs. This study sought to assess the prevalence of P&N in youth with EDs and its association with ED and comorbid pathology.


Youth (N = 515; ages 7–18) who presented to one outpatient ED research-clinical program were assessed for ED and comorbid pathology.


Two-fifths (n = 214, 41.6%) of youth endorsed P&N. These individuals were older (p < .001) and had a higher percent expected body weight (p = .006) than those who denied P&N. Controlling for age and percent expected body weight, P&N was only associated with global ED pathology in youth with anorexia nervosa (AN) or atypical AN (p = .007). P&N was not associated with ED diagnosis, ED pathology in youth with bulimia nervosa or subclinical bulimia nervosa, binge eating, compensatory behaviors, secret eating, or the presence of a mood or anxiety disorder (p's > .05).


Consistent with research in adults, P&N is prevalent but not significantly associated with ED pathology, except for global ED pathology in youth with AN/atypical AN, or comorbid disorders. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2015; 48:1102–1105).

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