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Factors associated with parental recognition of a child's overweight status - a cross sectional study

Marja L Vanhala12*, Sirkka M Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi2, Kaisu M Kaikkonen12, Jaana H Laitinen3 and Raija I Korpelainen12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Deaconess Institute of Oulu, Kajaaninkatu 17, 90100 Oulu, Finland

2 The Institute of Health Science, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland

3 Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Oulu, Finland

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:665  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-665

Published: 24 August 2011



Very few studies have evaluated the association between a child's lifestyle factors and their parent's ability to recognise the overweight status of their offspring. The aim of this study was to analyze the factors associated with a parent's ability to recognise their own offspring's overweight status.


125 overweight children out of all 1,278 school beginners in Northern Finland were enrolled.

Weight and height were measured in health care clinics. Overweight status was defined by BMI according to internationally accepted criteria. A questionnaire to be filled in by parents was delivered by the school nurses. The parents were asked to evaluate their offspring's weight status. The child's eating habits and physical activity patterns were also enquired about. Factor groups of food and physical activity habits were formed by factor analysis. Binary logistic regression was performed using all variables associated with recognition of overweight status in univariate analyses. The significant risk factors in the final model are reported using odds ratios (ORs) and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs).


Fifty-seven percent (69/120) of the parents of the overweight children considered their child as normal weight. Child's BMI was positively associated with parental recognition of overweight (OR 3.59, CI 1.8 to 7.0). Overweight boys were less likely to be recognised than overweight girls (OR 0.14, CI 0.033 to 0.58). Child's healthy diet (OR 0.22, CI 0.091 to 0.54) and high physical activity (OR 0.29, CI 0.11 to 0.79) were inversely related to parental recognition of overweight status.


Child's healthy eating habits and physical activity are inversely related to parental recognition of their offspring's overweight. These should be taken into account when planning prevention and treatment strategies for childhood obesity.

overweight status; children; recognition; parents