Perceptions of Children's Body Sizes Among Mothers Living on the Texas-Mexico Border (La Frontera)


Elizabeth Reifsnider, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd., Galveston, TX 77555-1029. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Objectives: The objectives of this study were to quantify mothers' perceptions of their children's sizes and explore mothers' views of child growth, diet, activity, and health. Photographs of children from the Berkeley Longitudinal Growth Study (on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] Web site) were used to stimulate discussion with mothers about child sizes.

Design: A descriptive, cross-sectional study examined mothers' perceptions of their children's size and their beliefs about child size, growth, and health.

Sample: The convenience sample included 25 mother–child dyads of 3-year-old children at two Head Start Centers in a county on the Texas–Mexico border. All mothers self-identified as Hispanic.

Measurement: Photographs of children were shown to elicit mothers' perceptions of children's body sizes. The children and mothers were weighed and measured and their body mass indices (BMIs) were computed. The mothers were interviewed about their beliefs on child health, growth, and feeding.

Results: No congruence was found between mothers' perceptions of child sizes in the pictures and their children's sizes.

Conclusions: Using CDC photographs does not appear to be a useful way to educate mothers about child body sizes. A child who is happy, active, and can accomplish normal childhood activities is not considered by mothers as overweight, regardless of the child's BMI.