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Obes Res. 2003 Nov;11(11):1362-8.

Childhood obesity: do parents recognize this health risk?

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, New York Medical College, Munger Pavilion, 3rd Floor, Valhalla, NY 10595, USA.



This study examined parents' understanding of excess weight as a health risk, knowledge of healthy eating habits, and recognition of obesity in their children.


An anonymous questionnaire was distributed during well-care visits involving children 4 to 8 years of age at a pediatric faculty practice. Parents indicated their level of concern about excess weight and other familiar health risks using a four-point Likert scale, answered multiple-choice questions concerning healthy eating patterns, and communicated their perceptions about their child's weight using a visual analog scale. A parent's perception was considered "accurate" if it deviated from the child's growth chart percentile by <30 points.


Of the 83 parents surveyed, 23% (19/83) had overweight children (> or = 95th percentile of age- and gender-specific BMI growth charts). These parents did not differ from other parents in their level of concern about excess weight as a health risk or in their knowledge of healthy eating patterns, but the two groups of parents did differ in the accuracy of their perceptions about their children's weight. Only 10.5% of parents of overweight children (2/19) perceived their child's weight accurately compared with 59.4% of other parents (38/64; p < 0.001). Parents of overweight children invariably underestimated their children's weight. The median difference between their perception and the growth chart percentile was -45 points.


Given that most parents of overweight children fail to recognize that their child has a weight problem, pediatricians should develop strategies to help these parents correct their misperceptions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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