Two different studies have put a spotlight on the complexities of the relationship between children's weights and their parents' perceptions.
One of the studies revealed that whatever the child's weight, if parents believe their child is overweight that young one will gain more weight. The second study showed that over 82% of parents underestimate the weight of their obese or overweight children.
Study No. 1 examined over 3,500 Australian kids of 4- to 5-years-old at the beginning of the research. Twenty percent of the children were obese or overweight, and over 75% were of standard weight. Of the parents involved in the study who had overweight children, a mere 20% identified their young ones as being overweight, writes Robert Preidt for HealthDay.
But according to the report, children with parents who thought they were overweight gained more weight by age 13 than those kids whose parents correctly or incorrectly believed their children were a normal weight.
"Contrary to popular belief, parental identification of child overweight is not protective against further weight gain, regardless of whether or not the child actually is overweight. Rather, it is associated with more weight gain across childhood," wrote study author Eric Robinson, from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, and a colleague.
The scientists noted that further research would be required to find how parental perceptions of their children's weight may unreasonably contribute to weight gain.
There is, however, evidence showing that labeling kids as overweight may cause youngsters to eat more and possibly change the way moms and dads interact with their children, including giving the kids food to comfort them.
The study was presented at the European Obesity Summit in Sweden on Tuesday and was published online on May 31 in the journal Pediatrics.
Study No. 2 was made up of parents of over 2,800 kids of 5- and 6-years-old from the Netherlands. The team discovered that 70% of the parents correctly determined their children's actual weight. But of the parents of obese and overweight young people, 82% underestimated their children's weight.
Parents who lived in families where over half the family members were overweight were more apt to underestimate the weight of overweight or obese kids than were parents who were in families where less than half the members were overweight.
The National Child Measurement Program of Ireland weighs and measures students each year, says the Cover Media Group. The program then notifies parents of the outcome of these measurements in letters sent to their homes. The idea originated from the belief that letting the parents know if the children were having any growth problems or issues with their weights was a valuable contribution to the families.
But, according to Robinson's study, this procedure may have the opposite effect than was intended and might result in comfort eating if parents see that their child is overweight or obese.
Although all the children who participated in the study gained weight as they grew older, the kids who were perceived by their parents to be bigger than normal were the ones who put on the most weight.
Dr. Robinson and co-author Dr. Angela Sutin of Florida State University stated:
"There is a greater need than ever to systematically assess the effectiveness of child measurement and screening interventions delivered to parents."