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Then and Now: Parents’ perception about their children’s weight remains unchange

Posted:  Monday, May 25, 2015

Parents are always biased towards their children when it comes to some aspects. But what if this bias extends to the weight of their children? Chinese researchers in a recent study compared parents’ perception of their children’s weight during 2 time periods: 1988 to 1994 and 2007 to 2012. They found that most parents of overweight boys and girls perceived their kids as “about the right weight”.

So how are these results important? Researchers say parents with accurate perception of their children’s weight might implement measures that support weight reduction. The researchers analysed the survey data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They evaluated 3,839 children from 1988 to 1994, and 3,151 children from 2007 to 2012. In the survey, parents were asked if their children, aged 2 to 5 years, were overweight, underweight or just about the right weight.

Strikingly, 97% of parents of overweight boys from the older group (1988 to 1994) and 95% of parents from the recent group (2007 to 2012) replied their sons were ‘just about the right weight’. Parents of overweight girls didn’t fare any better. Eighty eight percent from the first group and 93% from the recent group replied similarly.

The children in the recent group were significantly more overweight than the children in the older group. But much to the researchers chagrin, the parents’ perception about their children’s weight remained unchanged. This perception was seen the most among

African American families. The researchers observed that parents establish their perception by comparison and not by using science-backed growth charts.

They concluded saying, "We need effective strategies to encourage clinician discussions with parents about appropriate weight for their child. This will be critical for childhood weight management and obesity prevention.”

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