FAILURE TO THRIVE describes children who do not adequately gain weight or achieve the expected rate of growth for their age. In addition it includes infants and young children whose length has fallen below the norm. Although mostly used with reference to babies and young children, failure to thrive can persist throughout childhood and into adolescence. If it passes unrecognised and untreated it has potentially adverse consequences for a child's health and development.
Failure to thrive can be organic (a feature of many medical conditions) or non-organic, or a mixture of both. What causes failure to thrive is complex and varied, and there are both genetic and environmental influences. Organic failure to thrive usually has a physiological basis and is associated with inadequate nutrition secondary to gastrointestinal disorders, chronic infection, major structural congenital abnormalities, and metabolic and endocrine defects. Non-organic failure to thrive is also linked to inadequate nutrition, but refers to children whose failure to grow has no underlying medical condition. In some cases it may be accompanied by other concerns about the child's well being and safety. Whatever causal factors are involved, all children who fail to thrive have a less than adequate intake of calories and are therefore not able to grow well.
Organic and non-organic factors commonly co-exist, and the presence of one often leads to the rise of the other. Failure to thrive may be associated with all types of child maltreatment, including emotional abuse and neglect. In some cases poor growth is a marker that signals a child in need of protection as well as a child in need.
Feeding or eating problems are common in children whether they