Background Obesity is prevalent in children of all ages, especially in minorities. Little is known regarding racial/ethnic differences in parental perception of children's weight status. We evaluated parental and self-perception of weight status in Caucasians, African Americans, and Hispanics.
Design/Methods We surveyed the parents of 2- to 17-year-old children at an inner-city clinic. Children's weight status was defined by body mass index as normal (25-75%) or overweight (> 95%). African American, Caucasian, or Hispanic parents were enrolled in blocks of 24 to provide similar numbers of girls and boys, patients 2 to 8 and 9 to 17 years old, and racial/ethnic identification. Parents answered a bilingual questionnaire about how they perceived their child's weight: “underweight,” “just right,” or “overweight,” and if they were concerned about said weight. Children ≥ 9 years identified their own weight status. Chi-square comparison with p < .05 was considered significant.
Results 308 parent-child pairs were enrolled. Parents identified their child's weight status in 75% of cases, with no racial/ethnic differences noted (Table 1). Overall, 24% of overweight children were not identified as such by their parents, more commonly in children under 9 years of age (76%). Hispanic parents were more concerned about their children being overweight than Caucasians or African Americans.
Conclusions Independent of race/ethnicity, parents were able to recognize that their children were overweight (75%) but less in the younger group. Education about their children's weight status, particularly in young children, might prompt parents to institute early, effective interventions to minimize excessive weight gain.
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