Overweight children need early intervention
Most parents of overweight children fail to recognise the problem, making it difficult for them to start weight control at an early age, a study has found.
The study covered 508 parents and primary caregivers of children aged four to six. It was conducted by researchers at the Hong Kong Institute of Education in April.
Researchers asked parents to describe their children's body size and compared the descriptions with their actual figures based on the Body Mass Index.
About 65 per cent of the children had a normal body weight, while 12.5 per cent were obese, 14.3 per cent were overweight and 8 per cent were underweight.
The survey showed that while the caregivers of normal weight children could generally accurately describe their children's body size, those of abnormal weight children could not.
About 76.6 per cent of parents of overweight children, and 96.8 per cent of those with obese children underestimated their children's weight, whereas 87.8 per cent of the parents with underweight children overestimated.
Parents of overweight children described the body size as medium. They also tended not to consider the effect of the children's body size when predicting their future growth.
Dr Christine Chan Mei-sheung, assistant professor from the institute's psychological studies department, said a lack of knowledge about children's weight prevents parents and children from addressing the problem at an early age. 'Such a perceptual distortion of body images poses a threat to healthy weight control and possible health risk in the children's adult life, as the primary caregivers may not be able to provide their children with proper care and intervention.'
She said abnormal body weight at an early age had been linked to an increased risk for several health issues in adulthood.