Parents Are Bad at Noticing When Their Kids Are Overweight, New Study Shows

Parents Are Bad at Noticing When Their Kids Are Overweight, New Study Shows

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Parental assessment of their children’s weight was often significantly less accurate than the clinical records. 

Childhood obesity, which already carries grave risks like a lower age of mortality and a host of metabolic issues in later life, comes with a problem at home that may directly affect whether or not a child receives proper care. According to a new clinical study published in the British Journal of General Practice, parents of overweight children are often unable to perceive them as overweight.

In turn, the researchers warn, parents are of course less able to “address obesity in the home setting,” where intervention is the most critical.

To study parental perceptions of childhood obesity, researchers in the U.K. used a cross-sectional questionnaire that included objective measurement of height and weight by school nurses, in English schoolchildren, between ages 4 and 5 and 10 and 11.

In a sample of 2,976 children, researchers found that parents were more likely to acknowledge that their children were underweight when they reached the .8th percentile, and overweight when their children were at the 99th percentile.

Furthermore, “Parents were more likely to underestimate a child’s weight if the child was black or South Asian, male, more deprived, or the child was older. These values differ greatly from the BMI centile cut-offs for underweight (2nd centile) and overweight (85th).”

In other words, parents were unable to identify their children’s weight status until the child had reached either extreme. For both under- and overweight students, parental assessments did not line up with the clinical assessments of body mass index provided by school officials. 

In the U.S., meanwhile, there is some good news. One new study shows that fast food consumption among children has been on the decline since 2003.

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