No one wants to think of their kid as fat, even if it's the cold, hard truth. And a new study out of the British Journal of General Practice shows just how off the mark parents are when it comes to their child's weight.
Just a fraction of parents were able to correctly identify their son or daughter as overweight or obese, according to Forbes.
The study was based in the United Kingdom, but has similar implications for parents in the United States. Researchers from University College London tracked nearly 3,000 families who were taking part in the U.K.'s National Child Measurement Program. They measured the children's BMI, which in Britain is broken down into three categories: normal weight, overweight (above the 85th percentile), or very overweight (95th percentile, which is considered obese in America).
The result? Just a fraction of parents were able to identify their son or daughter as overweight or obese.
Of the 369 kids who were very overweight, only four parents agreed. When the researchers looked closer at the numbers, they saw that for a given child with a BMI in the 98th percentile, 80 percent of parents thought the child was of a normal weight. It would take a child being in the 99.7th percentile for the parents to even say the child was overweight, as opposed to very overweight.
"We found that parents underestimate how overweight their children are by a considerable margin," said Sanjay Kinra, the study's author. "An important reason for this discrepancy is that the perception of what 'overweight' is has shifted because as a society we are getting heavier."
The sooner parents realize their child has weight issues, the sooner they have a chance to act to make a difference, Kinra noted, thus emphasizing the importance of parents to be more realistic about their weight of their children.
Forbes also reports that parents of boys and those from families of lower socio-economic status were especially likely to underestimate their children's BMI, and that parents south Asian or African-American descent were even more likely to underestimate their kids' BMI.