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Parental perception of children's weight in a paediatric primary care setting


Ellen R. Wald, MD, University of Wisconsin Children's Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, Box 4108, 600 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53792, USA


Objective  To determine how parents of overweight children perceived their children's weight status compared with actual body mass index (BMI).

Methods  This descriptive, cross-sectional study assessed parental perception of and concern about weight, diet and physical activity of 3–12-year-olds. BMI values ≥85th and <95th percentile and ≥95th percentile were considered at risk for overweight and overweight respectively. Differences between groups were tested with chi-squared analyses or Fishers exact test as appropriate and further explored using logistic regression analysis.

Results  Questionnaires were completed at 612 health maintenance visits (278 girls). Overall, 15% of both boys and girls were at risk for overweight and 22% of boys and 24% of girls were overweight. Forty-nine per cent of parents recognized their overweight children as overweight. Perceptions were more often correct for parents of girls than boys (63% versus 36%, P < 0.001) and for older compared with younger children (61.7% versus 17.5%, P < 0.001).

Conclusions  Parents of overweight children frequently did not perceive their children as exceeding healthy weight standards. Targeting parental perception as a point of intervention is necessary.