Research: Overweight mothers are poor judges of their children’s weight


Moms who have a weight problem misjudge their children’s  weight

Obese Family

Obese Family

As a family physician, I have spent a lot of my life taking care of families and in particular children.  If you notice a child is a little overweight and mention it, some mothers will barely come to blows or at a minimum fire you for even mentioning it.  So why is it that mothers often miss that their children are overweight?  

A new study looked at this very question[1].  The study was published in 2016.  The study aimed to explore factors associated with the accuracy of maternal weight perception and to determine if maternal feeding practices are associated with weight status.  The subjects were a group of over 200 overweight and obese mothers with preschool-aged children.  The researchers used questionnaires to look at the perception of their child’s weight and feeding habits.   Mother’s and child’s height and weight were measured.  The study looked for correlations between the preschooler feeding questionnaire scales and mom’s body mass index (BMI) and child’s BMI.  The research found that mothers whose child was overweight or obese, only 20% of mothers correctly identified the child as overweight.  Forty percent of moms underestimated their child’s weight.  There was a statistically significant greater difference for mothers who were obese or overweight and a higher pressure exerted by mothers to eat more.  

The bottom line:  Obese and overweight mother have difficulty identifying obesity in their children and often put pressure on children to eat more.  To be honest with you, this study should not surprising because parents are blind to their own offspring’s weaknesses or flaws.  I have noticed that many parents over judge fevers and come running into my office with children that “feel warm” so it does not surprise me that that misjudge weight. This finding is one more reason medical providers are needed to counsel our patients.     More research is needed, but education might help prevent pressure to eat more.  


R. G. Tabak, C. D. Schwarz, and D. L. Haire-Joshu, “Associations between feeding practices and maternal and child weight among mothers who do and do not correctly identify their child’s weight status,” O, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 51–58, Jan. 2017 [Online]. Available: 10.1002/osp4.88″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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