Anyone see this? Parents Of Overweight Children Fail To Recognize Risk Factors Of Childhood Obesity, Unlv Study Finds

A new study by UNLV nursing researchers revealed that most parents - especially those who are overweight - fail to accurately perceive their children's weight and risk factors for obesity and may be contributing to this growing childhood epidemic.

With one in three U.S. children either at risk for or overweight, UNLV researchers investigated why an apparent disconnect exists between how parents perceive their children's weight and their actual weight. The study, which appears in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, summarized data and identified trends from 20 quantitative research studies in the U.S., Italy, Australia and the United Kingdom over the past 10 years on parental perceptions of childhood obesity.

Researchers noted several key findings:

- Parents, especially mothers, are more likely to classify daughters as overweight than sons

- Overweight parents were more likely to have an at-risk or overweight child

- In several studies, parents' education level corresponded to their ability to accurately perceive their children's weight

- Multiple studies cited cultural influences as potential reasons for parental misperception of their children's weight

- Parents more accurately identified the weight of their normal weight children than their overweight children

"If parents fail to recognize when their child is overweight, it is nearly impossible for parents and medical professionals to properly intervene to diminish the risk factors for obesity," said Patricia Alpert, UNLV assistant professor of nursing. "We know that childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate; we need to begin to address why this phenomenon is occurring. Only then can we develop appropriate interventions."

Researchers stressed that parents, as the most influential individuals in an at-risk or overweight child's life, need to be aware of the health consequences of obesity. They called for new research to explore parental misperceptions across ethnic groups, age groups and among parents of females versus males.

Participating in the study with Alpert were Jessica Doolen, UNLV nursing instructor, and Sally Miller, UNLV associate professor of nursing. The study appeared in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.