Compulsive behavior in Prader-Willi syndrome: Examining severity in early childhood

A. Dimitropoulos, J. Blackford, T. Walden, T. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a genetic disorder characterized by hyperphagia and food preoccupations. Researchers indicate that individuals with PWS, including young children, exhibit food and non-food-related compulsions. Normative rituals are also often present among typically developing preschoolers. However, it is unclear how these behaviors affect the child. Although preschoolers with PWS exhibit more types of rituals than other populations, it is uncertain if the severity of these behaviors differs from the rituals experienced during normative development. Thus, the purpose of this research was to determine whether the ritualistic behaviors exhibited by preschoolers with PWS differ in severity from those exhibited during normative development. We also sought to identify whether non-food ritualistic behavior was related to the hyperphagia in PWS. Parents of 68 children with PWS, 86 typically developing children, and 57 children with developmental delays completed questionnaires on rituals and eating behavior. Children with PWS exhibited more severe ritualistic behavior than typically developing children but not other children with developmental delays. However, the severity of non-food-related rituals was related to the severity of eating behavior in PWS. We hypothesize that this link between hyperphagia and non-food-related compulsivity may share a common underlying neurobiological mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-202
Number of pages13
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Compulsions
  • Early childhood
  • Food preoccupations
  • Hyperphagia
  • PWS
  • Prader-Willi syndrome
  • Ritualistic behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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