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Are Parental Perceptions of Child Activity Levels and Overall Health More Important than Perceptions of Weight?
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  • Description:

    To examine relationships between parental perceptions of child weight and overall health, reported lifestyle behaviors and measured body mass index (BMI).


    Using community-partnered methods, we surveyed families residing in a two census tract area identified for targeted interventions to decrease diabetes related disparities. The survey included demographics, child dietary and physical activity behaviors, and parental perception of child’s health and weight. We measured child BMI using a standardized protocol.


    We surveyed parents of 116 children with a mean age of 7 years (range 3–15) with 51 % boys, 74 % Hispanic, and 26 % Black. Over half of the children (55 %) were overweight or obese. Half (50 %) of the parents underestimated their children’s weight. Reported daily hours of walking and/or running trended higher (3.6 vs. 2.6 h, p = 0.08) for children perceived to be of normal weight. Parents who correctly estimated their child’s weight status reported more hours of daily walking/running than parents who underestimated child weight status, 4.5 versus 2.4 h, p = 0.0002. Parents of healthy weight children were more likely to report that children were in excellent or very good health compared to parents of overweight/obese children, 75 versus 56 % respectively (p = 0.04). We found significant racial/ethnic differences in reported diet and physical activity behaviors and perception of overall health.

    Conclusions for Practice

    Parental perceptions of child health and physical activity level may be related to perceptions of their child’s weight status. Study findings informed community-based initiatives for reducing diabetes risk among children.

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    K23 DK101692/DK/NIDDK NIH HHS/United States
    R24 MD001691/MD/NIMHD NIH HHS/United States
    U58 DP001010/DP/NCCDPHP CDC HHS/United States
    UL1 TR000067/TR/NCATS NIH HHS/United States
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