Parents of Obese Kids Often View Them as Healthy
They're more likely to change their children's diet than encourage exercise, study finds
By Kathleen Doheny
THURSDAY, July 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Parents of obese children often don't view their kids as unhealthy or recognize the health consequences of excess weight or inactivity, according to a new study.
The children of the families surveyed for the new research were attending an obesity clinic at the Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I.
"A third categorized their child's health as excellent or very good," said study researcher Dr. Kyung Rhee, now an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.
Rhee surveyed slightly more than 200 families in 2008 and 2009 to evaluate their readiness to help their children lose weight. She found that 28 percent of the parents did not perceive their child's weight as a health concern. But experts know that childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term ill effects on health, including risks for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Thirty-one percent of the parents thought their child's health was excellent or very good.
Parents were more likely to try to improve their children's eating habits than to increase exercise, Rhee found. While 61 percent said they were trying to improve eating habits, just 41 percent said they were increasing their child's activity level.
If parents were obese, they were less likely to be helping their children change. Most of the children, 94 percent, were obese, and their pediatrician referred them to the clinic for help in slimming down. The other 6 percent were overweight.
The study was published online recently in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Rhee said the findings are similar to a study she did in 2005, asking about parents' readiness to change their child's behavior if the child needed to lose weight.
The parents' own weight status affected how willing they were to make changes in their children's eating habits. "The parents who thought their own weight was a health problem were less likely to make changes in a child's diet," Rhee said.
She can't say why this is, because the survey did not ask. But Rhee suspects that the parents may have been discouraged by their own failed attempts at dieting.