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J Pediatr Health Care. 2009 Jul-Aug;23(4):216-21. doi: 10.1016/j.pedhc.2007.12.014. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Do parents accurately perceive their child's weight status?

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  • 1Department of Pedaitrics, Univeristy of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.



Few studies have evaluated the accuracy of parental perceptions of their child's weight status.


A cross-sectional sample of children aged 5 to 12 years and their parents (n = 576 parent-child pairs) was enrolled from four schools. Child height and weight were measured. The parents classified their child on Likert scales ranging from "extremely overweight" to "extremely underweight." Parental perceptions were compared with their child's weight status according to body mass index (BMI) age-gender percentiles. Fisher-Halton-Freeman tests, chi(2), and logistic regression were used to compare demographic factors between parents who inaccurately estimated and those who accurately estimated child weight status.


Misclassification occurred 25% of the time (95% confidence interval: 21.4-28.5). All parents of children with a BMI greater than or equal to the 95th percentile classified their child in a category other than "extremely overweight," and 75% of children with a BMI from the 85th to less than the 95th percentile were misclassified as "about right" or "underweight." Boys were more likely to be misclassified than were girls (29% vs 21%, P = .03).


The majority of parents of obese and overweight children underestimate their child's weight status. Parents of boys are more likely to perceive their child's weight incorrectly.

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