Parents’ perceptions of children’s weight

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: June 8th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Parents are known for overlooking their children’s flaws. But wishful thinking shouldn’t obscure serious health issues.

An article in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics shows that’s exactly what can happen with childhood weight problems.

Researchers surveyed the parents of more than two-hundred children ages two to seventeen. When asked to describe their child’s weight, almost three-quarters of them said it was about right.

Then researchers compared those responses with body mass index data for the kids.

It turned out half the overweight children were described as “about right,” and only one-tenth were actually categorized as “overweight.”

There’s more to this study than just semantics. The researchers found only a third of the parents with overweight kids worried about weight issues.

The danger, of course, is that children won’t get help losing weight if nobody acknowledges there’s a problem.

But the study did uncover a potential solution.

Parents were more likely to recognize a weight problem if their child’s doctor expressed concern about it. There was one catch… only a fifth of the parents with overweight children recalled hearing such a statement.

So perhaps pediatricians have a crucial role to play in helping kids slim down. But it will take a little extra effort.

First, when doctors see overweight children, they should tell the parents there’s a problem. Second, they need to communicate their concerns in a way parents remember.

An old saying tells us sometimes the truth hurts. But denial can hurt more.