Public Release: 

Parents failing to recognize their children's risk for obesity may be contributing to epidemic

New study shows that parents are likely to misperceive their child's weight

Wiley

Las Vegas, NV--March 18, 2009--With 17 percent of US children between ages 2 and 19 classified as obese, new research shows that parents may not be recognizing their own children's risk factors. A new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners shows that parents are likely to misperceive their child's weight - especially those parents who are overweight themselves.

Since parents are the most influential factor in laying the foundation for early childhood weight problems, researchers set out to assess the disconnect that exists between a parents' perception of their child's weight and the obvious physical appearance of their child. Looking at several studies which examine parental perceptions of childhood obesity generated from the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, and the United States, Jessica Doolen, MSN, FNP, Patricia T. Alpert, DrPH, APN, FAANP, and Sally K. Miller, PhD, APN, FAANP, found that parents were more likely to misperceive their child's weight, regardless of the child's age. Across the literature, mothers failed to accurately recognize the weight of their at-risk-for-overweight or overweight children.

In a comparison of two studies they examined, they found that in the UK only 1.9 percent of parents with children at risk for overweight and 17.1 percent of parents with overweight children accurately identified their child as being at risk for or overweight. In another study, the researchers made note of an interesting finding in the study conducted in Westchester County, New York. In that study the parents who had concern for their child's excess weight, 76 percent thought this concern was similar to concerns about sunburn, while 67 percent found concerns about weight similar to prolonged television watching.

The researchers noted several common themes from their analyses. Parents' inability to recognize their child's risk for obesity was especially pronounced if the parents themselves were overweight. Also, children of more highly educated parents were less likely to be overweight or at risk. Cultural influences also affected parents' perceptions of children's weight, with black women being more satisfied with their larger size than white women.

A multitude of risk factors put children at risk for weight gain, and parental misperception may be one of them. "If parents do not recognize their child as at risk for overweight or overweight, they cannot intervene to diminish the risk factors for pediatric obesity and its related complications," the authors conclude.

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This study is published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact professionalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Patricia T. Alpert, DrPH, APN, FAANP, is affiliated with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and can be reached for questions at patricia.alpert@unlv.edu.

The Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (JAANP) is a monthly peer-reviewed professional journal that serves as the official publication of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Published since 1989, the JAANP is designed to serve the needs of nurse practitioners and other health care professionals who have a major interest in primary health care. The JAANP publishes timely original, peer-reviewed articles addressing clinical practice, clinical management, health policy, research, education and other issues affecting nurse practitioners and other primary health care providers.

Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the acquisition of Blackwell Publishing Ltd. by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and its merger with Wiley's Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,400 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal. For more information on Wiley-Blackwell, please visit www.wiley-blackwell.com or http://interscience.wiley.com.

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