Do Obese Children Get Bullied More?

With the country in an obesity epidemic that is affecting younger and younger children, there are new concerns that bullying and teasing will impact these kids more than their peers. This concern was validated by a new study published in the June issue of the Journal Pediatrics, which showed that children in the range of 6-9 years of age have an increased likelihood of being subjected to bullying regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

Bullying has become a more common topic in the news these days with a new form of bullying emerging – cyber bullying. This form of attack is mostly done through text messages, email, and Facebook or MySpace messages.

Cyber bullying has been found to affect children in middle school and high school, which many schools have been trying to address. In most cases, children from 6-9 years old don’t have access to these types of technologies, leaving the teasing and bullying to happen in person and likely on the playground.

In an article posted in the Chicago Tribune Dr. Julie Lumeng addresses questions about the study, one of which is posted below:

Q: Do obese children attract bullies?

A: We thought it might be possible that obese kids with “not great” social skills would be bullied more – that really, it was the social skills that were the problem, and not the weight – but this was not the case – social skills did nothing to change the association.

However, we know there is pervasive prejudice and negativity towards obese individuals. It’s possible that it is clear to other children that the obese child is not happy about their weight, and that it is therefore an easy target for a bully. A subtle message inadvertently comes across in many of our obesity prevention campaigns that when a child is obese, it is because they are lacking in self control, or are lazy, or gluttonous, or just generally unmotivated. It’s truly so much more complicated than that – but I wonder if the obese child internalizes these messages about themselves, and therefore does not have much armor to fend off the insults being hurled at them – because on some level they have come to believe them about themselves. That’s very dismaying to me.

Click for further question and answer with Dr. Lumeng.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *