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Parental Perception of Child’s Body Weight: A Systematic Review

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If a parent does not accurately perceive their child’s overweight or obese status and potential health risk as a result of excess weight, they may be less inclined to encourage their child’s participation in healthy behaviors. This study systematically reviewed the past 5 years of literature regarding the accuracy of parental perception of their child’s weight status. PubMed, PsychInfo, and CINAHL databases from 2006 to 2012 were searched using key words related to parental perception and childhood overweight. Quantitative studies which assessed parental perception of their child’s body weight with height and weight measurements of the child (2–18 years of age) within the United States were included. Studies were excluded if the family was preparing to or currently receiving any kind of treatment or intervention for weight loss/management. Eligible articles which assessed and reported parental perception of their child’s body weight. Thirteen studies met the criteria for inclusion. Underestimation of obesity ranged from 13.3 to 100 % of parents of children with a BMI ≥95th percentile. In six of the studies, >70 % of parents of overweight children (≥85–<95th BMI percentile) underestimated their child’s weight status. Factors that affected accuracy of parental perception included word versus image classification, the child’s sex and age, ethnicity, and parental health literacy. To fully engage children who may be at risk for weight-related diseases in programs targeting physical inactivity and childhood obesity, efforts to improve accuracy of parental perception of their child’s weight are greatly needed.

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Correspondence to Connie L. Tompkins.

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Tompkins, C.L., Seablom, M. & Brock, D.W. Parental Perception of Child’s Body Weight: A Systematic Review. J Child Fam Stud 24, 1384–1391 (2015).

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