Background: Treating overweight children may be more difficult when parents themselves do not correctly recognize their child’s weight status (Camell, Edwards, Croker, Boniface, & Wardle, 2005 Boniface, & Wardle, 2005). While it is a commonly held belief in some cultures that overweight children are healthy, incorrectly assessing overweight in very young children results in unfavorable weight development throughout childhood (Kroje, Struthman, & Gunther, 2006). This is due to the increased likelihood that parents may not take the condition of obesity in their child as being serious, or they may fail to seek or accept professional help in correcting the problem (Carnell, et al., 2005).

Purpose: The purpose of this research was to determine if factors such as parents BMI and educational level affect misperception of overweight and obesity in children.

Method:This research utilized a cross sectional, observational design that examined correlations between a parent’s own BMI and educational levels on perception of their child’s overweight or obese status. Factors related to parents’ actual performance of weight control behaviors or intentions to change behavior were examined. In the literature review, current research on parental perception of children’s overweight status, and to what extent parents’ own weight status is associated with any disconnect served as a basis for this study.

The study participants included 105 parents of children determined to be overweight or obese. For comparison purposes, 105 parents of normal weight children were included in the study. Using Silhouette Matching Task, parent’s perception of their child’s actual body weight and perceived ideal body weight were measured. Using a 5- point Likert scale, an instrument to measure actual lifestyle changes that have been initiated to address a weight problem or intentions to practice lifestyle changes was used. Participants were required to complete a demographic form that provided information on their sex, ethnicity, level of education, and income. This information was used to measure differences in perception within the group.

Results: Participants who indicated they had at least some college were more accurate in their perception of their child's weight status as compared with those with a post graduate degree. For other socioeconomic factors such as income, no significant association was found. Parents who were overweight or obese had higher levels of misperception as compared to parents who were of a normal weight. Correlation was observed between health belief model variables of perceived susceptibility and severity and how parents perceived child overweight.

Conclusion:Misperception of a child's weight is affected by parents BMI, with overweight and obese parents being more likely to misperceive their child’s weight. Parents with some college appear to be more correct with perception compared to those with a post graduate degree. Income does not appear to play a role in perception. Results from this study provide health educators who are developing intervention programs that address childhood overweight and obesity with an understanding of how variables such as parents own weight status and educational level affect perception. This understanding is important in developing intervention programs that include activities aimed at correcting weight misperception first, before attempting to alter behavior.


Graduate School

First Advisor

Naomi Modeste

Second Advisor

Hildemar Dos Santos

Third Advisor

Jimmie Banta

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Overweight -- Child; Obesity -- etiology; Attitude to Health; Body Mass Index; Parents -- psychology; Parent-Child Relations; Socioeconomic Factors.



Page Count

xii; 108

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives