Mothers' perceptions of their adolescents' weight status: are they accurate?

Obes Res. 2004 Nov;12(11):1754-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2004.217.


Objective: To evaluate the accuracy of mothers' perceptions of adolescents' weight status.

Research methods and procedures: Parent interviews and adolescent surveys (755) were conducted in an ethnically diverse sample from Project EAT (Eating among Teens).

Results: Adolescent weight status was accurately assessed by 60% of mothers, underestimated by 35% of mothers, and overestimated by 5% of mothers. In multivariate analyses, mothers of female adolescents were about half as likely to underestimate their adolescent's weight status as mothers of male adolescents. Nonoverweight mothers were about half as likely as overweight mothers to underestimate their adolescent's weight status.

Discussion: Most mothers are able to accurately assess their adolescent's weight status; however, adolescent gender and mothers' weight status are related to accuracy. Mothers were more likely to underestimate their sons' weights than their daughters' weights, and overweight mothers were more likely to be inaccurate in their assessments than nonoverweight mothers. Findings suggest that the majority of parents do not need to be told that their children are overweight; instead, messages to parents of overweight teens should focus on how to provide support for healthy weight management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Weight*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Perception*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity