University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Maternal and Child Health | Pediatrics | Preventive Medicine | Public Health Education and Promotion


INTRODUCTION: The objective of our study was to describe perceptions of child weight status among US children, adolescents, and their parents and to examine the extent to which accurate personal and parental perception of weight status is associated with self-reported attempted weight loss.

METHODS: Our study sample comprised 2,613 participants aged 8 to 15 years in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the 2 most recent consecutive cycles (2007-2008 and 2009-2010). Categories of weight perception were developed by comparing measured to perceived weight status. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were used to examine the association between weight misperception and self-reported attempted weight loss.

RESULTS: Among children and adolescents, 27.3% underestimated and 2.8% overestimated their weight status. Among parents, 25.2% underestimated and 1.1% overestimated their child's weight status. Logistic regression analyses showed that the odds of self-reported attempted weight loss was 9.5 times as high (95% confidence interval [CI]: 3.8-23.6) among healthy-weight children and adolescents who overestimated their weight status as among those who perceived their weight status accurately; the odds of self-reported attempted weight loss were 3.9 (95% CI, 2.4-6.4) and 2.9 (95% CI, 1.8-4.6) times as high among overweight and obese children and adolescents, respectively, who accurately perceived their weight status than among those who underestimated their weight status. Parental misperception of weight was not significantly associated with self-reported attempted weight loss among children and adolescents who were overweight or obese.

CONCLUSION: Efforts to prevent childhood obesity should incorporate education for both children and parents regarding the proper identification and interpretation of actual weight status. Interventions for appropriate weight loss can target children directly because one of the major driving forces to lose weight comes from the child's perception of his or her weight status.


child obesity, pediatric obesity, weight perception, weight loss

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DOI of Published Version



Prev Chronic Dis. 2014 Jul 31;11:E132. doi: 10.5888/pcd11.140123. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Preventing chronic disease

PubMed ID




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