Parental misperception of child's weight and related factors within family norms

03 Jun 2021

Purpose Parental perception of their child’s weight may be a crucial factor in parental ability for action with regard to their child’s weight problem. This aim of this study was to investigate parental perception of their child’s weight status and dietary healthiness, amount of food consumed and physical activity level and its related factors. Methods A cross-sectional survey was conducted among children (Grades 4–6) selected by cluster sampling in two schools. Children were invited to participate in the measurements of anthropometry and their parents were asked to classify their child’s weight and health behaviors. Results In total, 41.8% of parents misperceived their child’s weight, of which 82% underestimated their child’s weight, in particular regarding overweight or obesity. As parents of overweight or obese children underestimated their child’s weight, around 65% were not concerned with their child’s current weight and about becoming overweight in the future. Factor associated with underestimation of overweight children was not having a sibling, while among children with normal weight, the underestimation was associated with boys, lower body mass index (BMI), maternal employment and low household income. Furthermore, parents underestimating their child’s weight were more likely to be optimistic about their child’s dietary healthiness, food amount taken, and physical activity level than those with correct child’s weight estimates. Conclusions Findings show a high proportion of parental misperception of their child’s weight status. Family-based weight control interventions will need to incorporate parental misperceptions of the body weight and health behaviors of their children.