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Parental beliefs about portion size, not children's own beliefs, predict child BMI

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-238
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric Obesity
Issue number4
Early online date4 Apr 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 10 Feb 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 4 Apr 2017
DatePublished (current) - Apr 2018



Increases in portion size are thought by many to promote obesity in children. However, this relationship remains unclear. Here, we explore the extent to which a child's BMI is predicted both by parental beliefs about their child's ideal and maximum portion size and/or by the child's own beliefs.


Parent–child (5–11 years) dyads (N = 217) were recruited from a randomized controlled trial (n = 69) and an interactive science centre (n = 148). For a range of main meals, parents estimated their child's ‘ideal’ and ‘maximum tolerated’ portions. Children completed the same tasks.


An association was found between parents' beliefs about their child's ideal (β = .34, p < .001) and maximum tolerated (β = .30, p < .001) portions, and their child's BMI. By contrast, children's self-reported ideal (β = .02, p = .718) and maximum tolerated (β = −.09, p = .214) portions did not predict their BMI. With increasing child BMI, parents' estimations aligned more closely with their child's own selected portions.


Our findings suggest that when a parent selects a smaller portion for their child than their child self-selects, then the child is less likely to be obese. Therefore, public health measures to prevent obesity might include instructions to parents on appropriate portions for young children.

    Research areas

  • BMI, Children, Eating behaviour, Obesity, Parental feeding practices, Portion size

    Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Nutrition and Behaviour
  • Physical and Mental Health

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    Licence: CC BY


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