Low awareness of overweight status among parents of preschool-aged children, Minnesota, 2004-2005

Lisa Harnack, Leslie Lytle, John H. Himes, Mary Story, Gretchen Taylor, Don Bishop

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19 Scopus citations


Introduction: Many studies have found that parents of overweight children do not perceive their child to be overweight. Little is known, however, about the extent to which such misperceptions exist among parents of preschool-aged children. Methods: We analyzed data that were collected in 2004-2005 from parents of 593 preschool-aged children in 20 child care centers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, metropolitan area. Parents were asked how they would classify their preschooler's weight, and children's height and weight were measured. Results: Of the predominantly white, educated sample, most parents (90.7%) of overweight preschoolers classified their child as normal weight. An even higher percentage (94.7%) of children at risk for overweight were classified as normal weight by their parents. Most parents of normal-weight children classified their child's weight as average. However, 16.0% classified their normal-weight child as underweight or very underweight. Conclusion: Results indicate that parents are unlikely to recognize childhood overweight among preschool-aged children, which is concerning because parents of overweight children may be unlikely to engage in obesity prevention efforts for their child if they do not recognize their child's risk status. A notable proportion of parents of normal-weight children perceived their child to be underweight, which suggests that parents of normal-weight children may be more concerned with undernutrition than overnutrition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA47
JournalPreventing Chronic Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Cancer Institute grant no. 2 R01 CA59805.


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