BACKGROUND: Parents' underestimation of their child's weight status can hinder active participation in overweight prevention programs. We examined the level of agreement between the parents' perception of their child's weight status and the child's actual weight status, moderating factors, and change over time. METHODS: This cross-sectional study used data collected in 2009 (n = 8105), 2013 (n = 8844) and 2017 (n = 11,022) from a community-based survey conducted among parents of children age 2-12 years in the Netherlands. Parents classified their perception of their child's weight status on a 5-point Likert scale. In 2009 and 2013, the child's BMI was calculated from self-reported data by parents. The level of agreement between the parent's perception of the weight status and the actual weight status was examined using Cohen's kappa. The role of demographic factors on parents' perception were examined using logistic regression. RESULTS: In 2009, 2013 and 2017, 6%, 6% and 5% of the parents, respectively, classified their child as heavy/extremely heavy. In 2009 and 2013, 64.7% and 61.0% of parents, respectively, underestimated the weight status of their overweight child. This was even higher among parents of obese children. Overall, the agreement between the parents' perception and the actual weight status improved from 2009 (kappa = 0.38) to 2013 (kappa = 0.43) (p<0.05), but remained unsatisfactory. The parents' underestimation of their child's overweight/obesity status was associated with the child's age in 2009 and 2013 (2-7 years; OR: 0.18), the child's gender in 2009 (male; OR: 0.55), and the parents' education level in 2009 (middle and high education; OR: 0.56 and 0.44 respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Parents' underestimation of their child's weight status remains alarmingly high, particularly among parents of young, obese children. This underestimation is a barrier to preventing childhood overweight/obesity. Healthcare professionals should take this underestimation into consideration and should actively encourage parents to take steps to prevent overweight/obesity in their children.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227761, hdl.handle.net/1765/124074
Journal PLoS ONE
Citation
Ruiter, E.L.M. (Emilie L M), Saat, J.J.E.H. (Jenneke J E H), Molleman, G.R.M. (Gerard R M), Fransen, G.A.J. (Gerdine A J), van der Velden, K. (Koos), van Jaarsveld, C.H.M. (Cornelia H M), … Assendelft, W.J.J. (2020). Parents' underestimation of their child's weight status. Moderating factors and change over time: A cross-sectional study. PLoS ONE, 15(1). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0227761