Like Parent like Child? Associations between Parental Body Mass Index (BMI), Parents’ Own Weight Perception and Underestimation of Child Weight Status

Guillaume Marois, ADRI, Shanghai University
Raya Muttarak , University of East Anglia
Sonja Spitzer, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital

About one in three children aged 10 to 11 are classified as overweight or obese in England. Childhood obesity is indeed a serious public health challenge because it has significant impact not only on both individual physical and mental health but also a considerable economic burden on societies. No doubt, parents play a crucial role in prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, but successful interventions require that parents recognise that their children are overweight or obese. However, recent studies show that the proportion of English adults who underestimate their overweight or obesity status have been increasing both in men and women. This raises a question whether parents’ weight misperception also transmits to underestimation of their children’s weight. This study exploits the Health Survey for England for the years 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 to analyse how parents’ own weight perception influences the perception of their child’s weight status, adjusting for parental body mass index (BMI) and other relevant socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. The preliminary results show that the majority of parents who are overweight or obese (64.5%) do not recognise the weight status of their overweight or obese child. Moreover, the proportion of parents who underestimate their child overweight and obesity status is significantly higher (77.7%, p=0.006) amongst overweight or obese parents who themselves underestimate their own weight. Furthermore, parents are less accurate at judging the overweight or obesity status of boys than girls (73.2% vs. 61.7%, p=0.002). These results are highly relevant since they show that parents’ weight misperception could undermine the efforts to reduce childhood obesity in England.

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 Presented in Session 84. Obesity: Trends, Causes, Consequences