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PLoS One. 2014 Feb 14;9(2):e88931. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088931. eCollection 2014.

Correlates of parental misperception of their child's weight status: the 'be active, eat right' study.

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Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands ; Department of Epidemiology, CAPHRI School for Public Health and Primary Care, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Institute of Health Sciences, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute of Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



This study reported on correlates of parental perception of their child's weight status. Associations between parental misperception (i.e., underestimation of the child's weight) and parental intention to improve their child's overweight-related health behaviors and their child meeting guidelines regarding these behaviors were also investigated.


Baseline data from the population-based 'Be active, eat right study' were used. The population for analysis consisted of 630 overweight and 153 obese five year-old children and their parents. Questionnaires were used to measure parental perception of the child's weight status, correlates of misperception (i.e., child age, child gender, child BMI, parental age, parental gender, parental country of birth, parental educational level and parental weight status), overweight-related health behaviors (i.e., child playing outside, having breakfast, drinking sweet beverages, and watching TV), and parental intention to improve these behaviors. Height and weight were measured using standardized protocols. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed.


In total, 44.40% of the parents misperceived their child's weight status. Parental misperception was associated with lower child BMI, the parent being the father, a foreign parental country of birth, and a lower parental education level (p<0.05). Parental misperception was not associated with parental intention to improve child overweight-related health behavior, nor with child meeting the guidelines of these behaviors.


This study showed that almost half of the parents with an overweight or obese child misperceived their child's weight status. A correct parental perception may be a small stepping-stone in improving the health of overweight and obese children.

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