Cheng TS, Loy SL, Cheung YB, Chan JKY, Tint MT, Godfrey KM, et al. (2016) Singaporean Mothers’ Perception of Their Three-year-old Child’s Weight Status: A Cross-Sectional Study. PLoS ONE 11(1): e0147563. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147563
Inaccurate parental perception of their child’s weight status is commonly reported in Western countries. It is unclear whether similar misperception exists in Asian populations. This study aimed to evaluate the ability of Singaporean mothers to accurately describe their three-year-old child’s weight status verbally and visually.
At three years post-delivery, weight and height of the children were measured. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated and converted into actual weight status using International Obesity Task Force criteria. The mothers were blinded to their child’s measurements and asked to verbally and visually describe what they perceived was their child’s actual weight status. Agreement between actual and described weight status was assessed using Cohen’s Kappa statistic (κ).
Of 1237 recruited participants, 66.4% (n = 821) with complete data on mothers’ verbal and visual perceptions and children’s anthropometric measurements were analysed. Nearly thirty percent of the mothers were unable to describe their child’s weight status accurately. In verbal description, 17.9% under-estimated and 11.8% over-estimated their child’s weight status. In visual description, 10.4% under-estimated and 19.6% over-estimated their child’s weight status. Many mothers of underweight children over-estimated (verbal 51.6%; visual 88.8%), and many mothers of overweight and obese children under-estimated (verbal 82.6%; visual 73.9%), their child’s weight status. In contrast, significantly fewer mothers of normal-weight children were inaccurate (verbal 16.8%; visual 8.8%). Birth order (p<0.001), maternal (p = 0.004) and child’s weight status (p<0.001) were associated with consistently inaccurate verbal and visual descriptions.
Singaporean mothers, especially those of underweight and overweight children, may not be able to perceive their young child’s weight status accurately. To facilitate prevention of childhood obesity, educating parents and caregivers about their child’s weight status is needed.
This study was supported by the Singapore National Research Foundation under its Translational and Clinical Research (TCR) Flagship Programme and administered by the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council (NMRC), Singapore- NMRC/TCR/004-NUS/2008; NMRC/TCR/012-NUHS/2014. Additional funding is provided by the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore. KMG is supported by the National Institute for Health Research through the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre and by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007- 2013), project EarlyNutrition under grant agreement n°289346. JKYC received salary support from the Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council, Singapore (NMRC/CSA/043/2012). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.