Parents often misperceive their obese children as "about the right weight," reveals a new study. NYU Langone Medical Center researchers believe it is the first study to examine the lack of change over time of parents' perception of their preschool child's weight status.
The results are important, they say, because parents with accurate perceptions of their children's weight are more likely to implement behavior changes that could lead to weight reduction.
Researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which uses physical examinations and interviews to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the U.S. They studied two groups of children over two time periods: 3,839 children between 1988 to 1994 and 3,151 children from 2007 to 2012.
In these surveys, parents were asked whether they considered their child, ages 2-5 years old, to be overweight, underweight, or just about the right weight. 97% parents of overweight boys from the first study group perceived their sons as "about the right weight" with 95% parents from the second group.
Parents with overweight girls did only slightly better; approximately 88% in the first study perceived their daughters as about the right weight and 93% in the more recent survey.
Lead author Dustin Duncan said that the results are consistent with past studies in which a considerably high number of parents incorrectly perceived their overweight/obese preschool child as being 'just about the right weight.'
Senior author Jian Zhang Georgia Southern University said that People need effective strategies to encourage clinician discussions with parents about appropriate weight for their child. This will be critical for childhood weight management and obesity prevention.
The study appears online in the journal Childhood Obesity