Date Published: October 9, 2018
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Jéssica Pedroso, Natacha Toral, Muriel Bauermann Gubert, Andrea S. Wiley.
We investigated the prevalence of maternal dissatisfaction with their child’s body size and its associated factors among mothers of first- to third-grade elementary school students in private schools in the Federal District, Brazil. This is a cross-sectional study with 548 mother-schoolchildren pairs. We measured children’s weight and height, and collected their mother’s sociodemographic data and Body Mass Index using an online questionnaire. We also verified maternal body dissatisfaction and maternal dissatisfaction with their child’s body size using Shape Scales. Most mothers (50.5%) were dissatisfied with their child’s body size. Mothers of boys (Adjusted OR = 2.85) were more likely to want a larger silhouette for their child, while mothers of girls (Adjusted OR = 3.18), overweight (Adjusted OR = 24.83) and obese (Adjusted OR = 189.86) children were more likely to want a thinner silhouette for their child. A positive correlation was observed between maternal dissatisfaction with their own body and maternal dissatisfaction with their children’s body size (rs = 0.178). There was a high prevalence of maternal dissatisfaction with their child’s body size, particularly among mothers of overweight and obese children. Additional studies should be conducted to better understand the influence of this dissatisfaction on maternal practices and attitudes related to their child’s body, food consumption, and lifestyle.
Family is known to hold meaningful influence over their children’s eating habits, and mothers play an important role on educating and selecting foods for their offspring [1–6]. Therefore, the way mothers perceive their child’s body and the presence of maternal dissatisfaction with their child’s body may affect their attitudes and practices related to the child’s dietary intake [1,4,7–9].
A cross-sectional study was conducted with pairs of children and their mothers. Our sample of 548 children was representative of first- to third-grade elementary students attending private schools in the Federal District in 2013  assuming a 95% confidence interval (95% CI) and a maximum error of 5%.
Children’s mean age was 7.1 ± 0.8 years. Of these, 21.3% were overweight and 12.8% were obese (Table 1). Mothers’ mean age was 37.6 ± 5.1 years, and the prevalence of overweight and obesity was 28.7% and 11.3% respectively (Table 1). Additionally, 65.5% were thirty-six years old or older, and 42.9% of mothers in the sample had a family income above fifteen minimum wages (Table 1).
An analysis of maternal dissatisfaction with their child’s body size revealed that half of the mothers were indeed unsatisfied. This was expected, since we found a high prevalence of misperception of child’s nutritional status in previous study with the same mothers, when only 30.0% of them chose the appropriate silhouette that represented their children’s nutritional status . Aparício et al. , when studying preschool children, observed a higher percentage of maternal satisfaction with their child’s body compared with that of the present study (67.2%). Conversely, Duchin et al. found that only 39.0% of mothers were satisfied with the body of their child, whereas 47.0% wanted their child to have a larger silhouette .
The present study found that most mothers were dissatisfied with their child’s body size. Additionally, mothers of boys and of were more likely to want CLS, whereas mothers of girls and of overweight and obese children were more likely to want CTS. A positive correlation was observed between maternal body dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction with child’s body size. This study suggests that mothers tend to transpose their body dissatisfaction to their child’s body, as well as their desire to lose or gain weight. Thus, the study findings can help guide health professionals and policy makers to develop and improve interventions and public policies that seek to prevent weight problems in children.