Naturally, parents want to believe that they are raising their children right; that they are providing them with a healthy diet, and that an inclination for food amongst younger children is a sign of good health and vitality. This was confirmed by a team of researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center who looked at data on how parents perceive their overweight young children, revealing that 94.9 percent of parents believe their kids’ size to be “just right” Researchers studied two groups of young children: a group of 3,839 kids from 1988-1994, and another group of 3,151 kids from 2007-2012, and published the findings in the journal Childhood Obesity. Similar findings were reported last year in the journal Pediatrics.
Perhaps even more disturbing, researchers found that results worsened from the same survey taken 20 years earlier. Obese children today are roughly 30% less likely to be appropriately perceived by their parents than they were in the 1990s. Amongst those with the highest chances of inaccurate perceptions were low-income parents and African Americans.
In the study, parents were asked the pivotal question: “Do you consider [child’s name] to be overweight, underweight, just about the right weight, or don’t know?” Data showed that parental responses were pretty much the same within the two time periods studied, however there was one very noticeable difference: childhood obesity is much more widespread today than it was the first time the study was conducted, meaning more parents are viewing their obese children as “just right”.
Signs point to changing societal ideals and a redefinition of healthy body weight. As obesity keeps rising in North America, larger body types are becoming more and more commonplace. Even among kids aged 2 to 5, who were the subjects of this study, perceptions of weight ideals have drastically changed. If every other child is obese, parents are more likely to see their own child as “normal” because of its prevalence.
Lessons can be learned from this study, yet none of them may be pleasant. Firstly, childhood obesity isn’t going away anytime soon. Secondly, more work needs to be done by pediatricians on educating parents about healthy diets for their children in the face of rising obesity rates. Thirdly, most parents have obviously lost a clear idea of what a healthy child looks like.
The important thing is that we start taking action now, before these trends become irreversible.
Source: Washington Post