Booster Shots

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My (fat) kid's not fat

October 19, 2008 |  6:00 am

When it comes to assessing their child's need to lose or gain weight, 4 in 10 parents see their darlings as just right. A study reported by University of Melbourne researchers found that 40% of parents whose children are overweight or underweight report that they believe their children are in the normal range.

And children who are not in the average weight range are also likely to mistakenly believe they're just fine, according to researcher Pene Schmidt.

What it means, she says, is that society is not very good at communicating what average and normal are.

Parents are unlikely to take the necessary preventative actions of the perception of their child's weight -- whether underweight or overweight -- is incorrect," she said in a news release.

She analyzed data from a survey of 2,100 children ages 4 to 12 and their parents. Here's what she found:

  • More than 4 out of 10 (43%) parents of underweight children were incorrectly considered to be average weight by their parents;
  • Almost half (49%) of parents of overweight children incorrectly believed their child was average weight;
  • More than 8 out of 10 parents correctly identified average weight children as being average weight;
  • A small percentage of parents assessed underweight children as being overweight (1.4%) and overweight children as being overweight (2.5%)
  • Parents were more likely to report that their sons were underweight and that their girls were overweight.
  • Parents were less likely to accurately identify that their child was underweight.
  • Parents of boys were less likely to accurately identify their child as being overweight.
  • Twice as many parents expressed concern about their child being overweight compared with underweight.
  • Only 4 out of 10 underweight girls and half of underweight boys correctly assessed their weight.

Unconditional love is great. But maybe not so much when it gets in the way of all the public health messages trying to curb overweight and obesity.

-- Susan Brink