Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 20, Issue 7, pp 1456–1463 | Cite as

Are Parental Perceptions of Child Activity Levels and Overall Health More Important than Perceptions of Weight?

  • Nita Vangeepuram
  • Michelle A. Ramos
  • Kezhen Fei
  • Ashley M. Fox
  • Carol R. Horowitz
  • Lawrence C. Kleinman
  • Maida P. Galvez


Objectives To examine relationships between parental perceptions of child weight and overall health, reported lifestyle behaviors and measured body mass index (BMI). Methods Using community-partnered methods, we surveyed families residing in a two census tract area identified for targeted interventions to decrease diabetes related disparities. The survey included demographics, child dietary and physical activity behaviors, and parental perception of child’s health and weight. We measured child BMI using a standardized protocol. Results We surveyed parents of 116 children with a mean age of 7 years (range 3–15) with 51 % boys, 74 % Hispanic, and 26 % Black. Over half of the children (55 %) were overweight or obese. Half (50 %) of the parents underestimated their children’s weight. Reported daily hours of walking and/or running trended higher (3.6 vs. 2.6 h, p = 0.08) for children perceived to be of normal weight. Parents who correctly estimated their child’s weight status reported more hours of daily walking/running than parents who underestimated child weight status, 4.5 versus 2.4 h, p = 0.0002. Parents of healthy weight children were more likely to report that children were in excellent or very good health compared to parents of overweight/obese children, 75 versus 56 % respectively (p = 0.04). We found significant racial/ethnic differences in reported diet and physical activity behaviors and perception of overall health. Conclusions for Practice Parental perceptions of child health and physical activity level may be related to perceptions of their child’s weight status. Study findings informed community-based initiatives for reducing diabetes risk among children.


Children Parents Obesity Diet Physical activity Health perception Weight perception Race/ethnicity Community-based participatory research Diabetes prevention and control Community health initiative 



This publication was supported by REACH U.S. Cooperative Agreement 5U58DP001010 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Grants UL1TR000067 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and 7002024 from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC, NIH or NYSDOH. We thank the many community partners and staff who were involved in the development of the survey including, Barbara Brenner, Mischka Garel, Helen Looker, Devin Mann, Thalia MacMillan and Judy Wylie-Rosett, as well as staff and interns who participated in the data collection phase of this project including, Alison Chaikittirattana, Maria Fernanda Espinoza, Janice Lam, Yemisi Okusanya, Gregory Tull and Amanda Wiggins.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nita Vangeepuram
    • 1
  • Michelle A. Ramos
    • 1
  • Kezhen Fei
    • 1
  • Ashley M. Fox
    • 1
  • Carol R. Horowitz
    • 1
  • Lawrence C. Kleinman
    • 1
  • Maida P. Galvez
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Population Health Science and PolicyIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA

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