Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 70–76 | Cite as

Contribution of behavior therapy and biofeedback to laxative therapy in the treatment of pediatric encopresis

  • Daniel J. Cox
  • James Sutphen
  • Steve Borowitz
  • Boris Kovatchev
  • William Ling


A model incorporating physiological, behavioral, and psychological parameters are presented to explain the maintenance and consequences of pediatric encopresis. It was hypothesized that the more comprehensive a treatment in addressing these parameters, the more efficacious it would be and the more children it would benefit. Eighty-seven children between the ages of 6 and 15 with the primary complaint of encopresis were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: (a) Intensive Medical Care (IMC), receiving enemas for disimpaction and laxatives to promote frequent bowel movements; (b) Enhanced Toilet Training (ETT), using reinforcement and scheduling to promote response to defecation urges and instruction and modeling to promote appropriate straining, along with laxatives and enemas; or (c) Biofeedback (BF), directed at relaxing the external anal sphincter during attempted defecation, along with toilet training, laxatives, and enemas. Three months following initiation of treatment, ETT and BF produced similar reductions in soiling/child (76% and 65%) that were superior (p's<.04) to IMC (21%). ETT significantly benefited more children than the other two treatments, employing fewer laxatives and fewer treatment sessions at a lower cost. Consistent with the presented model, reduction in soiling was associated with an increase in bowel movements in the toilet, reduction in parental prompting to use the toilet, and defecation pain. These results demonstrate that ETT should be used routinely with laxative therapy in the treatment of chronic encopresis.


Bowel Movement Behavioral Medicine External Anal Sphincter Chronic Constipation Toilet Training 


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel J. Cox
    • 1
  • James Sutphen
    • 1
  • Steve Borowitz
    • 1
  • Boris Kovatchev
    • 1
  • William Ling
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioral Medicine CenterUniversity of Virginia Health Sciences CenterCharlottesville

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