Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan


  • Paul NewmanEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_2116


Ingesting or craving of substances with no nutritional value.

Current Knowledge

Examples of substances may include dirt, paint chips, clay, leaves, pebbles, etc. Pica is considered a disorder when the behavior is not developmentally appropriate (e.g., >18–24 mo) and persists for at least 1 month. The course of pica is most often in the range of months, rather than years. It is most common in children but has also been studied in pregnant women. The etiology of pica has not empirically been determined, but hypotheses include nutritional deficiencies, cultural factors (ingestion of starch, soil, or clay is regarded as acceptable by various groups), low socioeconomic status, learned behavior (especially in children with developmental disabilities), or underlying biochemical disorder. Prevalence is unclear, because it is often unrecognized and underreported. Pica is a potentially serious disorder depending on the toxicity of the substance being ingested (such as the ingestion of...

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References and Readings

  1. Lacey, E. P. (1990). Broadening the perspective of pica: Literature review. Public Health Reports, 105, 29–35.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. McAdam, D. B., Sherman, J. A., Sheldon, J. B., & Napolitano, D. A. (2004). Behavioral interventions to reduce the pica of persons with developmental disabilities. Behavior Modification, 28, 45–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Rose, E. A., Porcerelli, J. H., & Neale, A. V. (2000). Pica: Common but commonly missed. The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, 13, 353–358.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical Psychology and NeuropsychologyDrake CenterCincinnatiUSA