Objective: Examine the accuracy of parental weight perceptions of overweight children before and after the implementation of childhood obesity legislation that included BMI screening and feedback.

Methods and Procedures: Statewide telephone surveys of parents of overweight (BMI ≥ 85th percentile) Arkansas public school children before (n = 1,551; 15% African American) and after (n = 2,508; 15% African American) policy implementation were examined for correspondence between parental perception of child's weight and objective classification.

Results: Most (60%) parents of overweight children underestimated weight at baseline. Parents of younger children were significantly more likely to underestimate (65%) than parents of adolescents (51%). Overweight parents were not more likely to underestimate, nor was inaccuracy associated with parental education or socioeconomic status. African-American parents were twice as likely to underestimate as whites. One year after BMI screening and feedback was implemented, the accuracy of classification of overweight children improved (53% underestimation). African-American parents had significantly greater improvements than white parents (P < 0.0001).

Discussion: Parental recognition of childhood overweight may be improved with BMI screening and feedback, and African-American parents may specifically benefit. Nonetheless, underestimation of overweight is common and may have implications for public health interventions.