Failure to Thrive is a condition whereby children either do not receive or are unable to properly utilize adequate nutrition for sufficient growth. Organic Failure to Thrive is the type caused by medical conditions while non-organic Failure to Thrive is caused by either insufficient provision of food, or complex psychosocial factors that impair a child’s ability to accept food provided. Psychosocial Failure to Thrive has complex dynamics and may be classified as child abuse or neglect.
Is Failure to Thrive Child Abuse?
The diagnosis of Failure to Thrive involves exclusion of medical causes, a careful evaluation of the pattern of growth using a growth chart (plot for height, weight and head circumference over time) and evaluation of family dynamics. Failure to Thrive may indeed be classified as child abuse or neglect and most certainly warrants a report to protective and/or legal authorities when appropriate.
What are Medical Causes of Failure to Thrive?
Various medical causes of Failure to Thrive exist and must be excluded by medical experts in this area. Some examples of medical conditions that cause Failure to Thrive include gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD), liver disease, chronic diarrhea, prematurity, cleft lip/palate, or conditions related to endocrine, respiratory, infectious, immunologic, or metabolic disease. The diagnosis of Failure to Thrive should be thoroughly evaluated by medical experts, sometimes by specialists in these various conditions.
What are Non-Medical Causes of Failure to Thrive?
Failure to Thrive, in some cases, may not be caused by a medical condition. First, caretakers may either inappropriately restrict the amount of nutrition provided to a child, or intentionally withhold food. Second, caretakers may not provide adequate nutrition due to lack of interest in the child, leading to concerns for neglect or child abuse. Third, caretakers may not have the financial resources to provide adequate nutrition. Fourth, caretakers may intend and try to provide adequate nutrition, yet an impairment may exist due to psychosocial dynamics (bonding).