herald

Thursday 15 November 2018

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

Child obesity is a major worry
Child obesity is a major worry

One in five Irish mothers fail to recognise their child is overweight or obese, a new study has revealed.

Girls were more likely to be wrongly identified by mothers as being of normal weight compared with boys.

The research also found mothers were more likely to underestimate their child's weight if they had a high birth weight or if the mother was obese or working.

The study, carried out by NUI Galway, also found other factors affecting the odds of misperceiving their child's weight included income, urban living and the age of the mother at birth.

Lead researcher Dr Michelle Queally said 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 in children.

"These findings suggest that mothers of overweight or obese three and five-year-olds show poor awareness of their child's weight status," said the authors.

"This study highlights the need for increased support to help improve mothers' understanding of healthy body size in pre-school aged children."

The study, which is published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, discovered that 22pc of Irish mothers failed to accurately identify their child to be overweight or obese at the age of three.

This figure fell to 18pc when the child was aged five.

The study used data from the Growing Up in Ireland study, a face-to-face survey of nearly 10,000 families of children aged three and more than 9,000 families of children aged five.

A higher maternal body mass index was associated with increased likelihood of mothers failing to identify their child as either overweight or obese.

Families who had private health insurance and households with higher incomes had lower odds of misclassifying their child's weight status when the child is three.

Education

The study found that families who lived in an urban area and mothers who had a postgrad- uate education were significantly less likely to misclassify their child at five-years-old.

The researchers said parents may choose to believe their child will simply "grow out of it" and their weight is not problematic.

A quarter of three-year-olds and 20pc of five-year-old children are overweight or obese in Ireland.

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