Maternal perceptions of childrens weight status

Child: Care, Health, and Development, 05/04/2012

Lopes L et al. – Many mothers do not properly recognize their children's weight status and frequently underestimate their children's body size.


  • Data were collected in a school-based study (school year 2009/2010) in northern Portugal with 499 urban children (236 girls; 47.3%).
  • Body mass index was calculated from measurements of height and weight [body mass (kg)/height (m2)]. Mothers' perceptions of child's weight status, age, height and weight were accessed by a questionnaire.
  • Children's age, gender and socio-economic status were extracted from the schools' administrative record systems.
  • Cohen's Kappa was used to analyse the misperceptions and the agreement between children's objectively measured weight status and mothers' perception of their child's weight status.


  • The prevalence of underweight, overweight and obesity in children was 4.6%, 25.5% and 6.4%, respectively.
  • A proportion of 65.2% of underweight and 61.6% of overweight/obese children were misclassified by their mothers.
  • For the majority of variables presented, the values of agreement were fair (k ranged from 0.257 to 0.486), but were statistically significant.
  • Significant differences in the percentages of mothers who correctly classified their children's weight status were only found among the most educated in the overweight/obese group and among the normal-weight mothers in the underweight group.

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