Submitted to: International Journal of Obesity
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/12/2006
Publication Date: 8/1/2006
Citation: Killion, L., Hughes, S.O., Wendt, J.C., Pease, D., Nicklas, T.A. 2006. Minority mothers' perceptions of children's body size. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity. 1(2):96-102. Interpretive Summary: Some ethnic and socioeconomic groups are not overly concerned about their children's weight. Many mothers in these groups believe that having a heavier child is important. Our study describes the development of an instrument to determine mothers' perceptions of their children's weight. A series of children's pictures were developed as a tool to see if mothers can correctly identify the size of their children and whether they are happy with their children's size. A total of 192 low-income Head Start mothers were asked which in the series of pictures looked most like their children and which picture did they want their children to look like. Actual heights and weights were measured on the children. On average, mothers perceived their children to be thinner than their actual size. In addition, two-thirds of the mothers with overweight children were satisfied with their children's size or wanted them to be heavier. However, some of the mothers of the heaviest children wanted their children to be thinner. Despite the social norm for a larger body size among some ethnic and socioeconomic groups, there are some mothers who accurately perceive their children to be too heavy when they reach a certain size.
Technical Abstract: The objective of this study is to investigate African-American and Hispanic mothers' perceptions of their children's body size using a scale with child figure silhouettes and compare those perceptions with their children's actual body mass index. A set of child figure silhouettes was developed depicting 4 and 5-year-old African-American and Hispanic children. Body mass index was systematically estimated for each child figure on the set of silhouettes. Minority mothers with children enrolled in ten Head Start centers (n = 192) were interviewed using the silhouettes, and height and weight measurements were taken on their children. Head Start, a comprehensive child development program that serves children aged 3 to 5 years old, was chosen because of the large percentage of minorities, the low-income status of the families, and the age of the children. Significant differences were found between mothers' perceptions of their children's body size and the actual body size of the children. On average, mothers perceived their children to be thinner than their actual size. Furthermore, of those mothers with children at risk for overweight or overweight, two-thirds were either satisfied with their children's existing body size or wanted their children to be heavier. However, half of the mothers of children above the 95th percentile for BMI wanted their children to be thinner. This data suggest that minority mothers' perceptions of their children's body size may not be consistently biased in one direction. Despite the possible social norm for a larger body size among low-income minorities, some mothers of overweight minority children do perceive their children to be too heavy when they reach a certain size.