Temple Times Online Edition
    SEPTEMBER 15, 2005
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Parents’ perceptions of weight
could affect childhood obesity

Parents’ misconceptions about their overweight children could be contributing to the epidemic of obesity, according to a recent study by Denise Salerno, associate professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine and Temple Children’s Medical Center, who studied the issue in an inner-city, minority community.

“The prevalence of overweight children is growing in the U.S., especially among minority children,” Salerno said. “We wanted to know whether parents of overweight children differed in their beliefs about children’s weight and nutritional knowledge when compared to parents of normal-weight children. Such differences could be contributing to the problem.”

Salerno questioned 371 African-American and Hispanic parents of children ages 3 through 12 on their beliefs about their children’s weight, behaviors regarding feeding, perception of their children’s weight and nutritional knowledge. Approximately one-third of the study participants had children who were overweight.

While nutritional knowledge was poor in both groups, and both groups had similar feeding behaviors and beliefs about their children’s weight, parents of normal-weight children had more accurate perceptions of their children’s weight than parents of overweight children (97 percent accuracy versus 48 percent).

“If parents are not perceiving their children as being overweight, and thus don’t regard it as a problem, it makes childhood obesity a more difficult problem to treat,” Salerno concluded.

- By Eryn Jelesiewicz