Pediatric Highlight

International Journal of Obesity (2005) 29, 353–355. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802889

Parental perceptions of overweight in 3–5 y olds

S Carnell1, C Edwards1, H Croker1, D Boniface1 and J Wardle1

1Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK

Correspondence: Professor J Wardle, Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK. E-mail: j.wardle@ucl.ac.uk

Received 24 June 2004; Revised 9 October 2004; Accepted 4 November 2004.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

 

To assess the accuracy of parents' perceptions of their 3 to 5 y old children's weight status in a large UK sample.

METHOD:

 

Parental perception and concern about child weight, demographic variables, and children's height and weight were obtained for 564 parent–child dyads.

RESULTS:

 

Only 1.9% of parents of overweight children and 17.1% of parents of obese children described their child as overweight. The odds of parents perceiving the child as overweight were increased for overweight (2.7; 95% CI 0.4, 16.5) and obese (28.5; 7.1, 115.4) compared with normal weight children, but were not associated with parental weight or with any demographic factors. Although few parents perceived their overweight children as overweight, more (66.2%) expressed concern about their overweight child becoming overweight in the future. Odds of concern were progressively higher for overweight (2.5; 1.6, 3.9) and obese children (4.6; 2.2, 9.7), and were also higher for parents who were themselves overweight (1.9; 1.2, 2.9) or obese (2.5; 1.3, 4.8).

CONCLUSION:

 

These findings suggest that parents of 3–5 y olds show poor awareness of their child's current weight status. Reframing discussions in terms of preventing future overweight may be an effective way to engage parents.

Keywords:

childhood obesity, maternal perceptions, parents, preschool, perceived weight

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