Mothers cling to chubby ideal for toddlers: study

Mon May 7, 2012 6:13pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Mothers of overweight toddlers often mistakenly think their children are normal weight, and mothers of underweight toddlers often wish they were plumper, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

The findings, based on a study of poor women in Baltimore, suggest that U.S. mothers often do not have a realistic idea of their offspring's weight, and many still cling to the notion that a chubby child is healthy child.

"A long time ago, it was O.K. to value a chubby baby when kids were underweight and we had potato famines and what not. It was a sign you're doing well for yourself," said Erin Hager of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"But that is not how it is today in the United States," said Hager, whose study appears in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Hager works with low-income mothers in clinics in the Baltimore area to find ways to help prevent obesity, a condition that now affects about 17 percent, or 12.5 million, American children and adolescents ages 2 through 19.

Poor children are hit especially hard. As many as one in seven low income preschool-age children are considered obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The researchers wanted to get an idea of how moms see their children, and how that might affect the way they feed them. For the study, they used a cartoon drawing of seven diaper-clad toddlers arranged in a row from underweight to obese.

They enrolled some 280 women aged 18 to 46 in the study, 72 percent of whom were overweight or obese themselves. And they asked the moms to point to the picture that best resembled the height and weight of their own child.   Continued...

A baby waits to have his body mass index measured in a Peapod machine at The Children's Hospital in Aurora, Colorado August 23, 2010 during a research study on obesity in infants. REUTERS/Rick Wilking