Purpose: To explore childhood obesity through mothers' perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
Study Design and Methods: Descriptive qualitative study using in-depth interviews. Sixteen in-depth interviews were conducted with primiparous mothers of children aged 0–2 years. The questions focused on nutrition, the context of eating in the family, physical activity, television viewing, and the responsibility of parents as role models. Thematic analysis was used to identify regular patterns of meaning regarding the major issues pertaining to childhood obesity, nutrition, and physical activity.
Results: Five themes were identified: (1) developing eating habits, (2) developing active and sedentary habits, (3) differences between age groups, (4) sources of information, and (5) response to information. Although awareness about the need to provide a nutritious diet and opportunities for children to be active was high among the mothers, this was not always reflected in their behaviors. For many mothers, obesity became a concern only if excessive weight gain occurred. Prevention through establishing good habits early, although considered, was not always actively pursued.
Clinical Implications: Interventions to prevent overweight and obesity need to focus on equipping parents with the skills to translate their knowledge into behavior and lay the foundations early for their children to develop healthy habits.