Bullying of Overweight and Obese Children

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • overweight obese child

    Photo credit David Castillo Dominici

     

    The Targeting of Obese Kids by Bullies

     

    Most of us have probably suffered the ordeal of bullying, those awful periods when some person or group of people targeted us for humiliation and harassment. It could be either a verbal or physical assault, but the results were similar. Self-esteem shrinks and certain streets or classrooms become objects of fear, places where petty and cruel people wait so they can nourish and repeat an ugly cycle at the expense of a vulnerable few.

     

    In the 6th-grade my classroom nicname was "tank."

     

    Those unfortunates on the receiving end of bullying tactics can be targeted for any number of reasons, but it has been shown that obese kids are especially likely to be bullied by peers. Even those obese children who posses traits that normally discourage bullying such as good social skills or good performance in school were found to be bullied more frequently than their peers.

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    The results of such mistreatment are what one might expect: kids who are bullied are more distressed, more anxious, and have an overall worse quality of life than those kids who are not bullied.

     

    Who Are the Bullies?

     

    The answer to that question contains a few surprises.

     

    A new study that has been recently published in the journal Pediatrics reports the results of an online survey developed by researchers from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. The survey was completed by over 300 kids between the ages of fourteen and eighteen who are enrolled in national weight loss programs. The subjects provided information to help researchers better understand the bullying that obese kids endure as well as the location, frequency, duration, and types of bullies involved.

     

    Sixty-four percent of the kids reported that they were bullied at school with seventy-eight percent stating they had been bullied for at least one year. An additional thirty-six percent reported being bullied for five years.

     

    Those who bullied most were school peers including those children that the kids being bullied considered friends. Sadly, it was also reported that adults were culprits as well. In such instances, a sport coach was identified as a bully forty-two percent of the time while teachers were identified as antagonists twenty-seven percent of the time. Most distressing is that over one-third of the kids maintained that they suffered bullying directly from their own parents.   

     

    I once had a 7th-grade teacher say that I reminded her of an Edsel. She told the girl sitting next to me that she reminded her of a sleek Camaro. I asked my dad what is an Edsel? He told me it was a big tank of a car. 

     

    My 7th-grade math teacher told the classroom that I looked like a St. Bernard. Junior High was rough.

     

    What Can Be Done  

     

    Children often incorporate the habits of adults into their own persona. Unfortunately, parents do not always model appropriately and children borrow the negative behaviors.

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    It has been shown that parents who share ideas and talk with their children frequently have kids who are 40% less likely to bully other children than are the children of parents who do not communicate with their kids regularly.

     

    Children who reported that they were often angry with their parents or bothered in general by them were as much as three times more likely to be bullies.

     

    Learn how to respond to this type of bullying by visiting the American Academy of Pediatrics site "HealthChildren.org."

     

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    References:

    CNN Health - http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/05/03/obesity.bullying/index.html 

    MedCity News - http://medcitynews.com/2012/12/school-bullying-childhood-obesity-tied-together-and-so-are-child-allergies/ 

    Mother Nature Network - http://www.mnn.com/family/protection-safety/blogs/obese-and-overweight-kids-face-bullying-at-school-and-at-home      

Published On: June 29, 2013