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Child Abuse

Failure to Thrive



I would like to know what failure to thrive is. And what causes it?


Failure to thrive means a child`s physical growth is significantly less than his/her peers. It has been traditionally divided into two categories. Organic, meaning that there is some underlying medical cause such as kidney disease or gastrointestinal disease, for example. The medical disease causes either increased caloric need or inability to ingest and/or absorb enough nutrients. The other category is non-organic or psychosocial. In this case, there is no medical condition causing poor growth. These two categories are helpful when thinking about causes of failure to thrive, but there are many cases that "overlap" with a combination of medical and psychological causes.

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Response by:

Catherine Gouldin, MD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati