Parental Perceptions of Family and Pediatrician Roles in Childhood Weight Management

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To characterize parental perceptions of the respective roles of families and the pediatrician in childhood weight management.

Study design

Structured in-person interviews (n = 69) were conducted with parents of children ages 3-12 years visiting a pediatric clinic. Interview topics included perceptions of weight and associated problems, child weight status and concerns, and the pediatrician's role in weight management. Interviews were coded qualitatively and analyzed thematically.


Nine major themes were developed from the findings. Parents were clear about the health consequences of excess weight but were not clear about the concept of body mass index, often relying on visual cues or symptoms to identify excess weight. Parents relied on pediatricians to identify weight problems and suggest diet and exercise plans, but few recognized them as a link to additional weight-management resources. Parents were divided on the role of the pediatrician in managing child weight and were most interested in receiving tailored nutrition information. Parents preferred family behavioral change strategies over singling out an overweight child. Although parents did not always define their child as overweight, many parents of overweight children did express concerns about their child's weight.


Parents believe that pediatricians have a central role in identifying childhood weight problems by completing screening tests such as body mass index assessments, interpreting the health implications, and communicating those implications to parents. Ensuring that parents understand the health implications of excess weight is critical given gaps in parental knowledge and confidence with healthy lifestyle changes as well as parental ambivalence toward child-directed interventions.

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