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Latino mothers’ beliefs about child weight and family health

  • Suzanna M Martinez (a1), Kyung E Rhee (a1), Estela Blanco (a1) and Kerri Boutelle (a1)



There is a need to address cultural beliefs and parenting practices regarding childhood obesity to design effective weight-control programmes for overweight/obese US Latino children. The purpose of the current study was to explore cultural beliefs about children’s weight, understand parent perceptions on feeding their children, and explore barriers that interfere with a healthy lifestyle.


Four focus groups were conducted in Spanish with forty-one Latino mothers of elementary school-age children from San Diego County, California between April and May 2011. Cultural viewpoints about overweight status among children and barriers to leading a healthy lifestyle were explored. Focus group discussions were analysed based on a priori and emergent themes.


Three themes were identified: (i) mothers’ cultural beliefs about health that are barriers to family health; (ii) mothers as primary caretakers of their family’s health; and (iii) attitudes about targeting children’s weight. Mothers acknowledged the idea that ‘chubby is better’ is a misperception, yet having a ‘chubby’ child was preferred and even accepted. Mothers described fatalistic beliefs that contradicted existing knowledge of chronic disease and daily demands of Western culture as barriers to practising healthy behaviours in the home as the family caretaker.


These findings may be used to inform more culturally appropriate research to address US Latino health. Increasing awareness of cultural beliefs and daily circumstance could help to address obesity more directly and thereby overcome some of the potential underlying barriers that might exist when involving the Latino immigrant families in obesity treatment and prevention.

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