Original Article | Published:

The association between weight perception and BMI: report and measurement data from the growing up in Ireland Cohort Study of 9-year olds

International Journal of Obesity volume 41, pages 4653 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Background:

The gold standard for categorisation of weight status is clinically measured body mass index (BMI), but this is often not practical in large epidemiological studies.

Objectives:

To determine if a child’s weight perception or a mother’s perception of a child’s weight status is a viable alternative to measured height and weight in determining BMI classification. Secondary outcomes are to determine the influence of a mother’s BMI on her ability to categorise the child’s BMI and a child’s ability to recognise his/her own BMI.

Methods:

Cross-sectional analysis of the growing up in Ireland cohort study, a nationally representative cohort of 8568 9-year-old children. The variables considered for this analysis are the child’s gender, BMI (International Obesity Taskforce grade derived from measured height and weight) and self-perceived weight status, and the mother’s weight perception of the child, BMI (derived from measured height and weight) and self-perceived weight status. Cohen’s weighted-kappa was used to evaluate the strength of the agreement between pairwise combinations of the BMI variables. Cumulative and adjacent categories logistic regression were used to predict how likely a person rates themselves as under, normal or overweight, based on explanatory variables.

Results:

Mothers are more accurate at correctly classifying their child’s BMI (κ=0.5; confidence intervals (CI) 0.38–0.51) than the children themselves (κ=0.25; CI 0.23–0.26). Overweight mothers are better raters of their child’s BMI (κ=0.51; CI 0.49–0.54), compared with normal (κ=0.44; CI 0.41–0.47) or underweight mothers (κ=0.4; CI 0.22–0.58), regardless of whether the mother’s BMI is derived from measured height and weight or self-perceived. The mother’s perception of the child’s weight status is not an influencing factor on the child’s ability to correctly classify him/herself, but the child’s self-perceived weight status influences the mother’s ability to correctly classify the child.

Conclusions:

A mother’s BMI classification of her child is a viable alternative to BMI measurement in large epidemiological studies.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge Professor Patricia Kearney for reading and providing comments on the paper. Kevin Hayes was supported by Science Foundation Ireland Research Investigator's Award SFI-12/IA/1683.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

    • F Shiely
  2. HRB Clinical Research Facility, Mercy University Hospital, Grenville Place, Cork, Ireland

    • F Shiely
  3. School of Medicine, University College Cork, Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, Cork, Ireland

    • H Y Ng
  4. Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Limerick, Plassey, Limerick, Ireland

    • E M Berkery
    •  & K Hayes
  5. School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

    • C Murrin
    •  & C Kelleher

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Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to F Shiely.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2016.162

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