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BMC Fam Pract. 2013 Oct 11;14:152. doi: 10.1186/1471-2296-14-152.

Child overweight in general practice - parents' beliefs and expectations - a questionnaire survey study.

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Department of General Practice, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 2, Aarhus C, Denmark.



Care for overweight children in general practice involves collaboration with parents. Acknowledging the parents' frames of references is a prerequisite for successful management. We therefore aimed to analyse parental beliefs about the presumed causes and consequences of overweight in children and expectations towards the GP. Moreover, we aimed at comparing the beliefs and expectations of parents of non-overweight children (NOWC) and parents of overweight children (OWC).


A cross-sectional survey. Data were obtained from a questionnaire exploring parents' beliefs and expectations regarding overweight in children. The questionnaires were completed by parents following their child's participation in the five-year preventive child health examination (PCHE).Parental agreement upon statements concerning beliefs and expectations regarding overweight in children was measured on a Likert scale. Differences in levels of agreement between parents of non-overweight children and parents of overweight children were analysed using Chi-squared test and Fisher's exact test.


Parents of 879 children completed and returned questionnaires. Around three fourths of the parents agreed that overweight was a health problem. A majority of parents (93%) agreed that the GP should call attention to overweight in children and offer counselling on diet and exercise. Almost half of the parents expected a follow-up programme. Parents of overweight children seemed to agree less upon some of the proposed causes of overweight, e.g. inappropriate diet and lack of exercise. These parents also had stronger beliefs about overweight disappearing by itself as the child grows up.


According to parental beliefs and expectations, general practice should have an important role to play in the management of child overweight. Moreover, our findings suggest that GPs should be aware of the particular beliefs that parents of overweight children may have regarding causes of overweight in their child.

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