OBJECTIVE: This study examines the association between child autistic traits and constipation symptoms, and explores whether this association is mediated by food selectivity.
METHOD: The sample included participants (N = 2,818) from the population-based birth cohort, Generation R (Rotterdam, the Netherlands). Parents reported their child's autistic traits at 6 years (using the Social Responsiveness Scale), food selectivity at 10 years (using the Stanford Feeding Questionnaire) and the frequency and severity of constipation symptoms they experienced at 10 years (using the ROME III functional constipation diagnostic criteria). Mediation analyses tested mediation through food selectivity in the association of autistic traits and the number of constipation symptoms, adjusting for covariates.
RESULTS: There was a positive association between parent-reported child autistic traits and constipation symptoms (r = 0.08, p < .001). We identified a significant indirect effect of autistic traits on constipation symptoms through food selectivity (β = 0.008, 95% Confidence Interval: 0.002, 0.014).
DISCUSSION: This study provides empirical support for the mediating role of food selectivity in the association between autistic traits and constipation. Behavioral interventions aimed to target food selectivity and support families of children with autistic traits may bolster conventional medical and nutritional treatments to alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation.