Objective Learning healthy eating habits is recognised as a main factor in preventing obesity. The aim of the study is to investigate how parents’ perceptions and concerns about their child’s weight and health influence their feeding practice.
Method 49 parent–child dyads have been recruited from child daycares in a Canadian community. Height and weight for children (26 male, 23 female, mean age 50.8 ± 12.34 months) were taken. Parents completed questionnaires regarding their child feeding strategies, perception of child’s weight status and concerns about their child’s health.
Results 64.5% of parents inaccurately perceived their child’s weight (χ2 = 8.7, p<0.01). 58% of overweight children were perceived as being normal weight and 6.5% of normal weight children were perceived as being overweight (χ2 = 8.7, p<0.01). A majority of parents of overweight children reported being unconcerned or neutral about the health of their child (76%), compared with 90% of the parents of normal weight children (χ2 = 6.3, p<0.05). Regression analyses show that parents being concerned for their child becoming overweight and for their child’s health predict the use of restrictive feeding strategy (F = 18.1, p<0.001) and pressure to eat (F = 2.4, p = 0.05).
Conclusion Evidence from this ongoing study, to be completed in the summer of 2008, suggests that parents may not fully understand what normal weight in children is or how it can impact their health. This misperception may lead to the use of controlling child feeding strategies found to inhibit the natural learning of hunger/satiety cues and produce overeating. These findings suggest the need for further parent education.