Obesity determinants in Mexican preschool children: parental perceptions and practices related to feeding and physical activity

Arch Med Res. 2011 Aug;42(6):532-9. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2011.10.006. Epub 2011 Oct 21.


Background and aims: Obesity represents a major public health problem worldwide. In Mexico, overweight and obesity have increased dramatically, affecting 26% of school-aged children. The aim of this study was to explore perceptions and practices of key obesity determinants among parents of preschool children attending child care centers.

Methods: We conducted five focus groups with 38 parents from six Mexico City child care centers. Inquiry topics were 1) childhood obesity causes and consequences; 2) child feeding practices at the child care center and home; 3) healthful and unhealthful foods for young children; 4) significance of physical activity in childhood; and 5) physical activity-promoting factors and barriers. We analyzed these data using content analysis.

Results: We identified a number of barriers to healthful eating, including parental time constraints, permissive feeding styles, unhealthful food preparation practices, lack of knowledge about nutrition, food advertisement, and high availability of unhealthful foods in public places. Facilitators to healthful eating included recognition of childhood overweight prevention and consequences, and healthy food choices. Main barriers to childhood physical activity included influence of young family members to play video games, parental time constraints, street safety, low access to sports facilities, and insufficient communication with child care centers.

Conclusions: Understanding parental views and perceptions of the main factors influencing preschoolers' weight-related behavior can inform home-based or environmental interventions that support healthful eating and regular physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eating*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Mexico
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Parents / psychology*