Mothers fail to recognise obesity in their children

By June Shannon Obesity News   |   7th Aug 2018

Mothers need more support to recognise a healthy weight for their children

New research has found that mothers in Ireland find it difficult to recognise if their child is overweight or obese and need more support to recognise a healthy weight for their children.

The study, which was carried out by researchers at NUI Galway, found that mothers were unable to accurately identify if their child was overweight or obese at the ages of three and five in Ireland.

The study used data from the longitudinal ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ study, which is a nationally representative face-to-face survey of children living in Ireland. Data was collected from almost 10,000 families of children aged three years and more than 9,000 families of children aged five years.

The results revealed that 22 per cent or more than one in five mothers failed to accurately identify their child as overweight or obese at age three. This decreased to 18 per cent when the child was aged five.

One in five mums don't realise their child is overweight or obese

Research NUI Galway

A mother was more likely to find it difficult to tell if their child was overweight or obese if the child was a girl, had a higher birth weight and if the mother herself was obese or working. Other factors affecting the odds of misperceiving a child’s weight included income and urban living.

The study also found that children of low income families were more likely to be obese and therefore developing tailored intervention programmes for pre-school children could help to change attitudes and promote awareness of obesity in children within lower socioeconomic groups.

According to the study, there is also need for healthcare professionals to provide more information and support to help parents recognise a healthy weight for their children and educational interventions to inform mothers of healthy weight range during the child’s early years might lead to more accurate weight perceptions as the child gets older.

The study was carried out by Dr Michelle Queally from the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway and colleagues from the Health Research Board funded project CHErIsH (Choosing Heathy Eating for Infant Health.

Dr Queally said that a mother’s recognition of their child being overweight and obese during early childhood was one of the key determinants in achieving a healthy weight status in children.

The study highlights the need to improve a mother’s understanding of what defines a healthy body size in preschool aged children

Research NUI Galway

The study highlights the need for increased support in Ireland to help improve a mother’s understanding of what defines a healthy body size in preschool aged children. Mothers who are unable to accurately identify their child being overweight/ obese at three years old are likely to do so again when the child is five years old, Dr Queally said.

Commenting on the study Sarah Noone, dietitian with the Irish Heart Foundation said that obesity was a complex multi-factorial problem with no one single cause and no simple solution.

“The study highlights the important role of mothers in influencing their children’s health and the importance of supporting them to do so, but the reality is there are now many challenges parents are facing. We know the environment we live in has changed massively and the research points to environmental factors as the key drivers of rising obesity rates. Advertisers bombard children with slick marketing for foods high in fat, salt and sugar. Shops are often laid out to encourage impulse buying of sweets and crisps. Fast food outlets are often clustered around schools. The scale of this challenge is huge and requires a broad approach and a range of policy measures to be introduced to tackle obesity.”



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