Children in Grades 3 through 6 who are obese are more likely to be bullied than their normal-weight peers!
No one who has attended grade school — or who has even the slightest familiarity with children — will be surprised by these findings. What is surprising, however, is that obese children are bullied more often even if they possess qualities that can discourage bullies, such as having good social skills or doing well in school.
When researchers started these studies, they suspected to find that obesity or being overweight might not be the driving force of bullying, but they were wrong. It is thought to be one of the main driving forces. What they found is that it didn’t matter. No matter how good the child’s social skills, if your kid is overweight or obese they are more likely to be bullied.
In another study, more than 800 children were followed – from 10 cities across the U.S. When the children were in the third, fifth, and sixth grades, the researchers surveyed teachers, mothers, and the children themselves about whether they were bullied, and also surveyed the adults about the children’s social skills. They then compared these responses with the children’s body mass index, a simple ratio of height and weight.
Overall, kids who were obese were 65 percent more likely to be bullied than their peers of normal weight; overweight kids were 13 percent more likely to be bullied. This pattern persisted even when the researchers took into account other factors that are associated with both obesity and being bullied, such as coming from a low-income family or doing poorly in school.
Still, the findings didn’t rule out the possibility that being overweight and being bullied shared a common, underlying cause, because there has always been the question whether there was another factor involved which was related to both bullying and obesity. Therefore it is thought that the low self-esteem of overweight children may make them targets for their peers.
Another prominant study revealed that kids who considered themselves very overweight not only were bullied, but they indicated more loneliness, saw themselves as troublemakers, and saw themselves as sad, fearful, and wimpy. They really have huge struggles to deal with emotionally, as children.
Another reason that children might be more apt to pick on their overweight classmates is that they are taking after adults. Children pick up behaviors from adults, so parents have to keep in mind how they are modeling respect for others around multiple issues, including weight. Imagine how many signals kids get about weight just by hearing conversations by adults or seeing advertisements on TV. The messages are everywhere in terms of trying to control weight and be a different size than you are right now.
Positive interactions with parents may help prevent bullying. Analyzed data from a National Survey of Children’s Health, included more than 45,000 parents of children between the ages of 10 and 17. Children whose parents shared ideas and talked often with them were about 40 percent less likely to bully other children compared to the children of parents who said they didn’t do those things regularly. On the other hand, the children of parents who said they are often angry with them or who feel bothered by them were up to three times more likely to be bullies, according to the study.
Interestingly, previous studies have suggested that obese children are more likely to bully others, in addition to being the victims of bullying. One possible explanation is that children who have difficulty staying calm and controlling their impulses to lash out at others may also have a hard time regulating their eating, and may eat for emotional reasons rather than out of hunger.
Overweight children are caught in a vicious circle of self-destructive behavior. They’re inactive, and they’re sad kids, and they use eating as gratification. Unfortunately, the effect is that continued eating is almost their only source of satisfaction, and so it’s a terrible cycle.
Protecting overweight kids — socially and physically –requires helping them break this cycle. A key thing is to discover their strengths and get them involved and active in extracurricular activities and to learn about nutrition as a family, together. The best way to learn about nutrition is to meet with a nutrition expert at Nutrition Authority. Contact us and let’s see if your insurance will allow multiple sessions. Most do.