Babies and children * Young people * Weight loss * Mental wellbeing

Teasing about weight worse for pre-teens

Teasing About Weight Negative impact on self-esteem

Any kind of teasing at school can damage a child's self confidence, but new research suggests that weight-related teasing can have affect how pre teens perceive their own bodies.

"We tend to think of adolescence as the time when kids become sensitive about their body image, but our findings suggest that the seeds of body dissatisfaction are actually being sown much earlier," said Dr Timothy Nelson, a psychologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, US who led the study.

"Criticism of weight, in particular, can contribute to issues that go beyond general problems with self-esteem."

The study was among the first to examine the impact of weight-based taunting on children before they reaching adolescence.

In the study the researchers surveyed hundreds of school children with an average age of 10.8 years. They recorded the children's heights and weights and calculated their Body Mass Index and used this to investigate the relationships between weight-related criticism and children's perceptions of themselves.

Their results showed that overweight pre-teens who were teased about their weight tended to view their bodies more harshly and were less satisfied with their body sizes than students who weren't teased about their weight.

And the most important factor in how a child viewed their body was not their actual body weight, but the amount of weight related teasing they had endured.

The researchers said children such as these were at greater risk for internalising problems, developing irregular eating behaviours and being bullied.

And added that the findings should be a signal for more early identification of children at risk of weight related teasing and intervention efforts at schools.

The results are published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology

This article was published on Fri 24 September 2010

Image © Piotr Marcinski -

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