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Parental perceptions of overweight in 3–5 y olds



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


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


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).


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.

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The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

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Correspondence to J Wardle.

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Carnell, S., Edwards, C., Croker, H. et al. Parental perceptions of overweight in 3–5 y olds. Int J Obes 29, 353–355 (2005).

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