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Parental perception of child weight and its association with weight-related parenting behaviours and child behaviours: a Chinese national study

  • Ting Zhang (a1), Li Cai (a1), Jin Jing (a1), Lu Ma (a1), Jun Ma (a2) and Yajun Chen (a1)...

Parents commonly fail to correctly recognize the weight status of their child. Whether parental perception of child weight is associated with weight-related parenting behaviours and child behaviours is unclear. The present study aimed to investigate the distribution of parental perception of child weight and its associations with weight-related parenting behaviours and child behaviours in China.


Cross-sectional study.


Seven provinces in China.


A total of 47 417 children aged 6–17 years and their parents were included from a national survey in 2013. Parental perception of child weight, weight-related parenting behaviours and child behaviours were self-reported. Child’s weight and height were objectively measured.


A total of 30·5 % of parents underestimated and 8·7 % overestimated the child’s weight. Parental underestimation was more common among younger children, boys and children with a lower BMI Z-score. Parents who perceived that their child had a healthy weight (accurately or inaccurately) were more likely to prepare breakfast for the child, exercise with him/her, set apart his/her exercise time, restrict his/her screen time, and were less likely to store soft drinks for the child. Children perceived to have a healthy weight, regardless of their actual weight status, behaved healthier on dietary intake, physical activity and homework time.


Parental underestimation of their child’s weight was prominent in China, especially among younger children, boys and children with a lower BMI Z-score. Parental recognition of their child being overweight did not appear to translate into healthy changes in weight-related parenting behaviours or child behaviours.

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Ting Zhang and Li Cai contributed equally to this work.

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Public Health Nutrition
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