Parents of school students on childhood overweight: The Weight of Opinion Study


Associate Professor Michael L Booth, School of Public Health, Level 2, K25 – Medical Foundation Building, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Fax: +61 2 9036 3184; email:


Aim:  The perceptions of parents of school-aged children regarding child and adolescent overweight and obesity were examined.

Method:  Parents with children in primary and secondary schools in socio-economically diverse areas across metropolitan Sydney and rural New South Wales, Australia, were recruited for focus group discussions. Content analysis was used to analyse the focus group transcripts.

Results:  Participants were concerned about overweight among school-aged children and young people, but were reluctant to address it with their own children. The parents wanted general practitioners to raise the issue, but not other professionals or friends/relations. The participants agreed that schools had an educational role to play in both healthy eating and physical activity, but disagreed about whether schools should regulate foods brought from home or supplied at school. Parents suggested various ways of restricting marketing to children, educating parents and children, increasing opportunities for physical activity and increasing access to healthier foods.

Conclusions:  Parents are concerned about overweight among children and adolescents, but are reluctant to take action, and would find it difficult to be effective change agents. There are opportunities for intervention, but they must recognise the salient emotional issues associated with weight and food among parents.