A new study from NUI Galway has found that only one in five mothers are able to accurately tell if their child is overweight or obese at three and five years old.
Dr. Michelle Quelly from the Cairnes Schoold of Business and Economics and colleagues from the the Health Research Board carried out this research into the health of families with young children.
Their study found that only 22% of mothers could accurately say if their child was overweight or obese at three years old, going down to 18% at five years old.
Dr. Quelly notes that, “A mother’s recognition of their child being overweight and obese during early childhood is one of the key determinants in achieving a healthy weight status in children.”
“The study highlights the need for increased support in Ireland to help improve a mothers understanding of what defines a healthy body size in preschool aged children.”
The study was funded by project Cherish (Choosing Heathy Eating for Infant Health) and supported by the Health Research Board.
One factor that it noted was that a mother was more likely to overlook a child’s weight if they were a girl, had a higher birth weight, or if the mother was overweight.
It was carried out with data from the ‘Growing up in Ireland’ survey, a nationally representative face-to-face survey of children living in Ireland that aims to inform policy about children and families.
It gathered information from almost 10,000 families of three year old children and 9,000 families of five year olds.
A key recommendation from the study is the importance of having healthcare professionals inform families about healthy diet and weight for infants and young children.
It also highlighted that childhood obesity disproportionately affects low-income families and suggests that targeted intervention at a pre-school age could promote awareness of obesity in children.