Obese Kids More Likely To Be Bullied

Obese children in grades 3 through 6 are more likely to be bullied than children of a normal weight, according to a new study.

The suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince earlier this year has helped raise awareness among parents and teachers of the psychological impact of bullying on teens. Now, a new study that examines bullying at a younger age identifies overweight children as the primary target.

Researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed 821 children ages 8 to 11. In the third grade, 15 percent of the children were overweight and 17 percent were considered obese. A quarter of the 821 students admitted to being bullied; however, 45 percent of their mothers reported that their child had been bullied for his or her weight. The study included responses from children, parents and teachers.

The odds of being bullied were 63 percent higher for children who were obese than their classmates of a normal weight, researchers noted, and the bullies did not discriminate based on gender or economic status. Overweight boys were just as likely as girls to be bullied by their peers and surprisingly, those with good social skills weren’t spared from the bullying either.

“I thought maybe this would protect obese kids from being bullied. But no matter how we ran and re-ran the analysis, the link between being obese and being bullied remained,” Dr. Julie Lumeng, lead researcher, told Reuters Health.

Dr. Lumeng is worried that the perception surrounding obesity is that it’s caused by a lack of exercise and overeating when the condition is often driven by other factors. Many times, children who are not good at dealing with their emotions become emotional eaters, she explained, noting, “we really need to work on changing this view of what causes obesity.”

The study findings indicate that parents and teachers not only need to encourage healthy eating habits for young children, but also need to set a good example and refrain from making negative comments about people who are overweight, since children seem to pick up on this attitude at an early age, which results in bullying behavior.

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