The views of young children in the UK about obesity, body size, shape and weight: a systematic review

Rees, Rebecca; Oliver, Kathryn; Woodman, Jenny; Thomas, James
January 2011
BMC Public Health;2011, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p188
Academic Journal
Background: There are high levels of concern about childhood obesity, with obese children being at higher risk of poorer health both in the short and longer terms. Children's attitudes to, and beliefs about, their bodies have also raised concern. Children themselves have a stake in this debate; their perspectives on this issue can inform the ways in which interventions aim to work. This systematic review of qualitative and quantitative research aimed to explore the views of UK children about the meanings of obesity and body size, shape or weight and their own experiences of these issues. Methods: We conducted sensitive searches of electronic databases and specialist websites, and contacted experts. We included studies published from the start of 1997 which reported the perspectives of UK children aged 4-11 about obesity or body size, shape or weight, and which described key aspects of their methods. Included studies were coded and quality-assessed by two reviewers independently. Findings were synthesised in two analyses: i) an interpretive synthesis of findings from open-ended questions; and ii) an aggregative synthesis of findings from closed questions. We juxtaposed the findings from the two syntheses. The effect of excluding the lowest quality studies was explored. We also consulted young people to explore the credibility of a subset of findings. Results: We included 28 studies. Instead of a focus on health, children emphasised the social impact of body size, describing experiences and awareness of abuse and isolation for children with a greater weight. Body size was seen as under the individual's control and children attributed negative characteristics to overweight people. Children actively assessed their own size; many wished their bodies were different and some were anxious about their shape. Reviewers judged that children's engagement and participation in discussion had only rarely been supported in the included studies, and few study findings had depth or breadth. Conclusions: Initiatives need to consider the social aspects of obesity, in particular unhelpful beliefs, attitudes and discriminatory behaviours around body size. Researchers and policy-makers should involve children actively and seek their views on appropriate forms of support around this issue.


Related Articles

  • Helping Your Child Reach or Stay at a Healthy Weight.  // American Family Physician;7/1/2008, Vol. 78 Issue 1, p65 

    The article presents questions and answers related to children's weight including a way of knowing if a child is at a healthy weight, information on the risks of childhood obesity and ways of helping the child reach or stay at a healthy weight.

  • Ask Karen. Inge, Karen // Australian Women's Weekly;Jun2005, Vol. 75 Issue 6, p129 

    Presents approaches that parents can use in assessing if their child is overweight. Ways to determine the child's body size using the Body Mass Index; Weight range of a healthy adult.

  • Central overweight and obesity in British youth aged 11-16 years: cross sectional surveys of waist circumference. McCarthy, David H.; Ellis, Sandra M.; Cole, Tim J. // BMJ: British Medical Journal (International Edition);3/22/2003, Vol. 326 Issue 7390, p624 

    Objective: To compare changes over time in waist circumference (a measure of central fatness) and body mass index (a measure of overall obesity) in British youth. Design: Representative cross sectional surveys in 1977, 1987, and 1997. Setting: Great Britain. Participants: Young people aged 11-16...

  • Letter. Larsson, I.; Narbro, K. // International Journal of Obesity;Mar2005, Vol. 29 Issue 3, p348 

    Focuses on the prevalence rates of overweight and obesity in Sweden. Growth in obesity rates of the country; Social mapping of the obesity epidemic; Validity of body mass index based on self-reported weight and height.

  • Weight Watching: 75% of Americans Fat by 2015.  // Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter;Sep2007, Vol. 25 Issue 7, p3 

    This article presents statistics about U.S. citizens and obesity. Predictions suggest that by 2015, 75% of U.S. adults will not be just overweight, but obese. Johns Hopkins University researchers analyzed 20 published studies plus national surveys of weight and behavior. Additionally, a report...

  • Body mass index (BMI).  // Mayo Clinic Fitness for Everybody;2005, p9 

    Presents a chart of the body mass index from National Institutes of Health's Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Height; Weight in pounds.

  • Big. Dahm, Mary // Teen Ink;Oct2006, Vol. 18 Issue 2, p17 

    The article presents the views of the author on obesity and beauty. She explains the reason she believes Mandisa, a contestant in the television program "American Idol," is beautiful despite the fact she is big. She discusses the positive connotations of the term "big." It provides the...

  • Overweight in children: definitions and interpretation. Flegal, Katherine M.; Tabak, Carolyn J.; Ogden, Cynthia L. // Health Education Research;Dec2006, Vol. 21 Issue 6, p755 

    Studies in a variety of countries have shown increases in the prevalence of overweight among children in recent years. These increases have given rise to concern about children's health and well-being. The terminology used hi these studies varies considerably. However, whatever the terminology...

  • NOW LESS JUNKY!  // Time;12/27/2004, Vol. 164/165 Issue 26/1, p195 

    The article discusses how General Mills has switched from highly processed white flour to whole-grain flours in the manufacture of all 29 of its cereal brands, including such kid favorites as Lucky Charms and Trix. General Mills' move could strike a blow against childhood obesity, since refined...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics