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Parents underestimate an overweight child

Parents often significantly underestimate the weight of their child, including when the child is seriously overweight. This was revealed by a study performed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. According to the researchers, this makes weight control amongst young people more difficult.

According to the research, provided that the children are not extremely obese, it appears that parents are not able to properly gauge whether their child is overweight.

The researchers asked the parents of almost 3000 children who participate in the British National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) to complete questionnaires. This is a study which monitors and tackles (serious) weight problems in children at primary school.

The parents had to gauge whether their child was obese, had weight problems, had a normal weight or was too light on the BMI sale. Their answers were compared to the data monitored in the NCMP.This revealed that 31 percent of the parents estimated the BMI of their child too low. To illustrate this: just 4 parents described their child as obese, whilst 369 children in the study officially fell into this category. There was therefore only a reasonable chance that only the heaviest 0.3 percent would actually be classified as obese.

“If parents are unable to properly gauge the weight of their own child, they are possibly not prepared or not motivated to make changes to that child’s lifestyle, which could ultimately lead to weight control”, said the researchers.


James Black, MinHae Park, John Gregson, Catherine Falconer, Billy White, Anthony Kessel, Sonia Saxena, Russell Viner , Sanjay Kinra. Child obesity cut-offs as derived from parental perceptions: cross-sectional questionnaire. Br J Gen Pract 2015.

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