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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 2, No. 2
April 1997

Traits Associated with Failure to Thrive

Growth Retardation

  • Child falls below the 3rd percentile in weight and height

Physical Description

  • Wasted body, thin arms and legs
  • Large stomach
  • Red, cold and wet hands and feet
  • Thin, wispy, dull, and sometimes falling hair
  • Dark circles around the eyes

Physical Symptoms

  • Refusal to take food
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Psychological Description

  • Sadness
  • Expressionless face
  • General lethargy
  • Withdrawal, detachment
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Depression
  • Bursting into tears, frequent whining
  • Little or no smiling
  • Diminished vocalization
  • Staring blankly at people or objects
  • Lack of cuddliness
  • Lack of proper stranger anxiety

Developmental Retardation

  • Motor
  • Language
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Elimination


Iwaniec, D., Herbert, M., & McNeish, A. (1985). Social work and failure-to-thrive children and their families. Part I: Psychosocial factors. British Journal of Social Work, 15, 243-259.

1997 Jordan Institute for Families