Parents blind to kids' obesity

Bronwyn Walenkamp

The vast majority of parents of overweight or obese children think their child's weight is about right, according to US research.

In a study spanning 1988 to 1997, over 96% of parents perceived their overweight child as about the right weight. Figures barely budged in a later 2007-2012 study, where 95% of parents could not tell that their children were overweight or obese.

“What was particularly alarming is that children in the second study were significantly more overweight than the children in the first, yet the parents’ perception remained relatively unchanged,” say researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Centre.

However, parents on higher incomes are more inclined to correctly perceive their children as overweight or obese, lead author Dr Dustin Duncan writes in the journal Childhood Obesity.

Dr Duncan says parents often compare their own child to other children when making a decision about weight, instead of using evidence-based growth charts.

He says this may be because few parents are able to understand the growth charts and the implications of the data.

Senior study author Dr Jian Zhang, of Georgia Southern University, says parental recognition of their child’s overweight status is “paramount to obesity prevention methods.”


Duncan Dustin T., Hansen Andrew R., Wang Wei, Yan Fei, and Zhang Jian. Change in misperception of child’s body weight among parents of American preschool children Childhood Obesity. -Not available-, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/chi.2014.0104.
Amanda Davey