Based on the literature (as well as from our RIPPLE RCT), we know that a sizable proportion of parents with children classified as overweight or obese tend to underestimate their weight status. However, little is known regarding the impact of parental misperceptions on children’s weight across childhood.
In a recent study published in Pediatrics, researchers set out to determine if parental perception of child weight status were associated with weight gain over time. Based on data from a longitudinal study of children aged 4- 13 years, they reported an interesting finding: regardless of children’s actual weight status, children of parents who perceived their weight status as ‘about right’ were less likely to show increases in BMI z-score compared to parents who perceived children as ‘overweight’.
In other words, children of parents who may have inaccurately perceived their weight status fared better than their accurate counterparts. One such explanation is that the stigma attached to the label of ‘overweight’ may influence parents’ behaviors towards their child, but the authors note that further investigation is warranted.