Parental perceptions of their child's weight and future concern: the Pacific Islands Families Study.Pac Health Dialog. 2011 Sep; 17(2):33-49.PH
Little is known about the perception of overweight, expressed as a level of concern, of Pacific parents and its relevance to children's weight. The aim of this study was to analyse data collected at birth and four and six years in the Pacific Island Families Study (PIFS) to investigate the relationship between parental perceptions of child weight status and actual weight status.
A total of 569 parent child dyads (299 boys (52.5%), 270 girls (47.5%); 47.1% Samoan, 20.9% Tongan, 18.6% Cook Island, 4.9% Niue, 8.4% other Pacific) were examined in this Parental Perception of Overweight Obesity Study (PPOS). At four and six years the question was asked of the parent "How concerned are you about your child becoming overweight?" A 5-point Likert scale was used, with possible answers ranging from "unconcerned" through increasing levels of concern to "very concerned". At four and six years weight and height were also measured and body mass index (BMI) derived and classified using international standards. Potential factors associated with parental perception were examined in a multivariate model using logistic regression.
The majority of parents were unconcerned at four and six years (62% and 69.1%) about the future overweight status of their child. Using the international BMI classifications, at four years 40.1% of the children were classified as normal weight, 34.1% as overweight, and 25.8% as obese. At six years the proportions were similar; i.e., normal 41.3%, overweight 31.1%, and obese 27.6%. At four and six years the proportion of parents who were concerned about their child's future weight status was related to the child weight status e.g., at 6 years 20% of parents of normal children, 28% percent of parents of overweight and 51% of parents of obese children were concerned (p trend < 0.0001). Ethnicity and parity were significantly related to parental perceptions (p < 0.0001); identification with Tongan ethnicity was related to a higher proportion of concerned parents and an increased number of children in the family were related to a smaller proportion of concerned parents.
While the level of concern was low and the prevalence of overweight and obesity high, the context of the socio economic and demographic environments must be taken into account in the formulation of interventions. Overweight and obese Pacific children may benefit from interventions that target the awareness of parents, making them more conscious of the relationship of obesity with food and activity patterns and give practical support to change the environment. These findings raise the concern that there is a normalisation of overweight and obesity in Pacific parents and/or children. Interventions firstly should address the socio economic demographic environment of a Pacific family making healthier choices the easier choices.