Factors associated with the accuracy of parental perception of their child's body weight status: the New Jersey Childhood Obesity Study
Objectives: Although childhood obesity has received growing attention, parents still fail to recognize overweight and obesity in their children. Accurate identification of overweight or obesity in their child is associated with the parent's responsiveness to interventions aimed at preventing weight-related health issues. Recent research shows that a child's age and gender are associated with parental misperception of their child's weight status, but little is known about the interaction of these factors across various age groups. This study examined the association between a wide range of parent, child, and household factors and the accuracy of parental perception of their child's body weight status compared to parent-measured body weight status. Methods: Data were collected from a random-digit-dial telephone survey of 1708 households located in five low-income New Jersey cities with large minority populations. A subset of 548 children whose parents completed the survey and returned a worksheet of parent-measured heights and weights were the focus of the analysis. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were performed to determine the factors significantly associated with parental perception of their child's body weight status. Results: Based on parent-measure heights and weights, 36% of the children were overweight or obese (OWOB). Only 21% of OWOB children were perceived by their parents as OWOB. Child gender, child body mass index (BMI) and parent BMI were significant independent predictors of parents' accuracy at perceiving their child's body weight status. Conclusion: Boys, OWOB children, and children of OWOB parents had significantly greater odds of parental underestimation of their body weight status. Parents had better recognition of OWOB in their daughters, especially older daughters, than in their sons, suggesting parental gender bias in identifying OWOB in children. Further research is needed regarding parental gender bias and its implications in OWOB identification in children.