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Craving EarthUnderstanding Pica--the Urge to Eat Clay, Starch, Ice, and Chalk$
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Sera Young

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231146098

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231146098.001.0001

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Dismissal and Damnation

Dismissal and Damnation

A Historical Perspective on the Purported Causes of Pica

(p.69) Chapter Six Dismissal and Damnation
Craving Earth

Sera L. Young

Columbia University Press

This chapter deals with how, for centuries, pica has been considered to be a behavior that is at best useless, and at worst injurious. It presents six groups of people who have historically been described as engaging in pica—indigenous populations, slaves, pregnant women, poor whites in the southeastern United States, children, and the mentally ill—and discusses the flawed rationale behind the condemnation for each group. Information about the frequency, duration, and severity with which pica has been condemned makes it possible to surmise why pica has been so readily dismissed until the twentieth century. The chapter concludes by recounting more recent judgmental reactions to pica, which leads to a discussion of other reasons why pica may be concealed as well as suggestions for establishing a more accurate estimate of pica behavior.

Keywords:   pica, non-food cravings, indigenous populations, slaves, pregnant women, poor whites, children, mentally ill

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