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Keywords:

  • adolescent obesity;
  • Chinese;
  • parental influence;
  • parental perception;
  • parenting

Abstract

Purpose  The purpose of this study is to examine Chinese parents' perceptions of their children's weights and explore the parenting behaviours associated with these perceptions.

Methods  A total of 2143 adolescents and 1869 parents were recruited from secondary schools in Ganzhou and Shantou in China. The adolescents' actual weights and heights were measured by trained testers. The self-reported parents' weights and heights, parental perception of the adolescents' weights, adolescents' perception of their own weights, parenting behaviours and demographic information were collected through the questionnaires distributed to the respondents.

Results  The results based on Kappa statistics show only a slight agreement between parental perception of their children's weights and the adolescents' actual weights (Kappa = 0.221). The results from the logistic regression show that the parents' gender [odds ratio (OR) = 0.80, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.64–1.00], adolescents' gender (OR = 1.61, 95% CI: 1.29–2.01) and perception of their own weights (OR = 0.30, 95% CI: 0.24–0.38) are associated with the parents' perception of their children's weights. Statistically significant difference in several parenting behaviours was found between the parents with correct and incorrect perceptions of their children's weight.

Discussion and conclusion  Misconceptions about their children's weights are prevalent among Chinese parents. The association between parents' perception of their children's weight and parenting behaviours suggests that the accurate classification of children's weights could help prevent childhood obesity.