- Parents' views
about how heavy or normal their 4- or 5-year-old-child's weight was
found to be associated with how much weight the child gained after a
period of 10 years.
- The initial weight
of the child might not have been in the obese range but if parents
believed that their child was overweight, then it resulted in a negative
- The negative
image harbored by the child resulted in improper dieting, which resulted in weight gain over a period of 10 years.
Children tend to pile on
more weight over a period of 10 years, if their parents think they
are 'overweight' when compared with the weight gained by children of parents
who think they are 'normal' weight. This analysis was obtained from data from
two nationally representative studies and the results were published in the
journal Psychological Science
The studies indicate
that children whose parents think they were overweight tended to have a
negative perception of their body and were prone to trying to lose weight, some
of which contributed to gain in weight.
‘Parents perception influenced weight gain of their child, stressing the need for increased awareness among parents.’
Psychological researchers Dr.Eric
Robinson from The University of Liverpool as well as Dr. Angelina Sutin from
The Florida State University College of Medicine said that though the
perception of the body weight of their child was important for parents to
understand the need to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, it also resulted
in the child developing a negative perception. It has always been assumed that
parents' perception that their children were overweight could improve the
management of childhood obesity
and motivate the
child to lose weight.
The stigma that is
associated with being overweight could in fact lead to further weight gain.
This could be
due to crash diets and extreme exercise routines that the child might not be
able to keep up for an extended period of time. This could result in breaking
away from diets and binge eating, which leads to additional weight gain.
Assessing Weight Gain
About 2,823 Australian families
were included in a longitudinal Australian Children study, which
team utilized to understand the pattern of weight gain.
The study began when the
child was -4 or 5-years-old. The height and the weight of the child was measured. At this
stage, parents were asked if they thought that their child was
- Very Overweight
The study conducted a
follow-up when the children were 12- or 13-years-old.
The children were shown images of children with differing body sizes and were
asked to determine which image best described their body. They were also asked
if they had undertaken any steps to lose weight.
The height and the
weight of the children were measured again when they were 14-or 15-years-old.
The study found that the weight of their children as perceived by parents at 4
or 5 years influenced the weight of the children when they were 14 or 15 years.
- A 4-or 5-year-old child was found to gain more weight by the age of 14 or 15
if their parents though they were overweight.
This was also associated
with the beliefs of the child. When the parents of the child thought they
were overweight, there was a higher chance of the child attempting to lose
The negative perception and the attempt to lose weight was found to
be as likely to occur in a girl as it is likely to occur in a boy. The
researchers found that the household income, weight of the parents and the
existence of any medical condition were not associated with the increase in
Initial Weight and Weight at 14 years
The most startling
aspect of the study was that the increase in weight gain was not associated
with the initial weight of the child, when the child was 4-or 5-years-old.
It is the perception of the parents that played a role in weight gain, which
stresses the need to instill positivity in the child by encouraging the
consumption of a healthy balanced diet instead of infusing a feeling of
negativity in the child. This could lead to attempting in unhealthy weight loss
programs, which could later affect the well-being of the child and increase
Growing up in Ireland
As many as 5,886 Irish families
underwent the 'Growing up in Ireland
' study and when the data from
these families were examined by the scientists Robinson and Sutin,
the same correlation between the perception of the parents on a child's weight
and the resultant weight of the child after a period of 10 years, was noticed.
The scientists state that while the study does not determine definitely if the
perception of the parents caused the increase in weight of the child, however,
it does show that there were unintentional negative consequences on the health
of the child.
Parents Perception of
In a study titled 'Parental
perceptions of weight status of their children
' published in the Journal Arya Atherosclerosis
by scientists Sarrafzadegan N and colleagues, it was found that some parents had
unreasonably believed that their children were overweight or obese. This was an
indication that parents needed to be counseled or made aware of the weight
range for normal as well as obesity in children.
- 90% of parents
were aware about the ill effects of obesity.
- 92% of parents
understood or were aware that obesity could be caused due to increased
consumption of junk food.
- Only 5% of the
parents in the study felt that obese children were healthier than
- When the
education level of the father in the family was higher than a high school
diploma, they rated their children's weight as being overweight or obese,
lower than fathers who studied less than high school.
- Only 12% of
parents attempted aiding their children in losing weight.
- Only 6% enrolled
or organized physical or sports activities for the
The study shows that
parental perceptions are influenced by the knowledge about weight gain and
obesity that they are exposed to. This, however, influences the child's beliefs
and infuses a negative body image, which is evident in the weight gain
witnessed later on in life. A greater awareness needs to be created among
parents about obesity and the need to instill confidence in the child about
body image and also to educate the child about healthy eating and participating
in physical activities that aid in building a health body and a healthier
- Eric Robinson, Angelina R. Sutin. "Parents' Perceptions of Their Children as Overweight and Children's Weight Concerns and Weight Gain" Psychological Science (2017)
- Parental perceptions of weight status of their children - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23696761)