Mothers of pre-school children talk about childhood overweight and obesity: The Weight Of Opinion Study

J Paediatr Child Health. 2007 Dec;43(12):806-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2007.01199.x. Epub 2007 Sep 4.


Aim: To investigate the perceptions of parents of young children aged 2-5 years regarding childhood overweight and obesity.

Methods: Parents with children in seven pre-schools and long day-care centres from diverse socio-economic areas across metropolitan Sydney and one rural area were recruited for focus groups. Focus group transcripts were analysed using content analysis.

Results: Providing food was an emotional issue for the mothers in this study. They were more concerned about their young children being underweight than overweight, and this increased their stress around children's eating. Food treats were perceived as entitlements. Mothers did believe that they were responsible for their children's eating, but acknowledged the influence of other environmental factors related to food retail and marketing. Practical and safety issues limited opportunities for their children to be physically active beyond the formal child-care setting. Parents had practical suggestions for solutions to some of the barriers they experienced, and wanted support for their role.

Conclusions: The emotional intensity of the mothers' perceptions about their children's eating and weight status suggests that interventions, including communications, need to go beyond information and engage with parents' emotions. Some food concerns were actually related to broader parenting issues and indicate the potential value for interventions to focus on behavioural parenting techniques. Preventive interventions need to acknowledge the issues faced by parents and support their role directly, such as through making healthy and active behaviours easily available, and indirectly, through providing local services, including early childhood services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers* / psychology
  • New South Wales
  • Obesity*
  • Overweight*