OBJECTIVE. This study explored caregivers' perceptions of children's weights, eating patterns and activities, and obesity-related problems.
METHODS. Self-administered questionnaires were distributed to caregivers of overweight/obese children, aged 3-18 years. Their perceptions of the children's weight status were compared with measured weights and heights from which body mass indices (BMI) were calculated. BMIs in the 85th to 95th percentile and those above the 95th percentile of the World Health Organization Child Growth Reference Standards 2007 defined the terms "overweight" and "obesity," respectively. Agreement between perceived weight status and the actual measurements were determined by Cohen's kappa. The association between caregivers' weight perceptions and the children's actual weight status as well as the association between the children's eating patterns and activities, and their nutritional status were determined by chi-square analysis.
RESULTS. Of the 165 respondents, 78.8% were mothers, 91.5% completed college education. Overall, nearly a third (29.7%) failed to recognize their child as overweight or obese. Nearly half (48.5%) of the 33 respondents with overweight children and a quarter of 132 respondents with obese children perceived their child to be of normal weight. Disagreements between weight perceptions and the nutritional status based on BMIs were statistically significant (p<0.01). No significant differences in eating patterns and activities were noted between the overweight and the obese children. Most respondents (84.2%) believed that overweight/obese children may have health problems.
CONCLUSION. Caregivers of overweight/obese children tend to underestimate the weight status of their children. Recognition of a child's weight problem may be necessary to initiate intervention programs to address overweight/obesity.