Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Maternal perceptions of their child’s weight status: the GENESIS study

Yannis Maniosa1 c1, Katerina Kondakia1, Georgia Kourlabaa1, Emilia Vasilopouloua1 and Evangelia Grammatikakia1

a1 Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University of Athens, 70 El. Venizelou Avenue, 176 71 Kallithea, Athens, Greece


Objective The objective of the present work was to quantify mothers’ misclassification of pre-school children’s weight status and to determine factors associated with the maternal misperception.

Design A representative sample of 2287 children aged 2–5 years was examined (GENESIS study). Mothers’ perceptions of their child’s weight status and the children’s and mothers’ anthropometric and other characteristics (sociodemographic and lifestyle) were recorded.

Results Almost 38 % of mothers underestimated their child’s weight status. The frequency of underestimation was much higher among ‘at risk of being overweight’ and ‘overweight’ children (88·3 % and 54·5 %, respectively) compared with ‘underweight/normal-weight’ children (18·0 %, P < 0·001). Multiple logistic regression modelling revealed that the likelihood of mothers’ underestimation of their child’s weight status was significantly higher in boys, in children engaging in physical activity for less than 3 h/week and in children whose mothers had low education status, compared with their counterparts. Moreover, the higher the BMI-for-age Z-score, the greater the odds that the mother would underestimate her child’s weight status.

Conclusions The current study demonstrated that more than one-third of mothers misclassify their children’s weight status as being lower than the actual. Given that mother’s weight perception might be an important determinant of child’s body weight development, clinicians and health professionals should help mothers correctly classify their children’s weight status, which could potentially help in the early prevention of overweight and obesity.

(Received February 28 2008)

(Accepted November 04 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email