Friday, July 13, 2007

Overweight Children Face Stigma

The July issue of Psych Bulletin has an article which indicates that overweight children are teased by their peers as early as age 3. They face bias from their parents and teachers, giving them a quality of life comparable to people with cancer, a new analysis concludes. Children who report teasing, rejection, bullying and other types of abuse because of their weight are two to three times more likely to report suicidal thoughts as well as to suffer from other health issues such as high blood pressure and eating disorders, researchers said.

Even with a growing percentage of overweight people, the stigma shows no signs of subsiding, due to the fact that television and other media continue to reinforce negative stereotypes.

Children as young as 3 are more likely to consider overweight peers to be mean, stupid, ugly and sloppy. A growing body of research shows that parents and educators are also biased against heavy children. In a 1999 study of 115 middle and high school teachers, 20 percent said they believed obese people are untidy, less likely to succeed and more emotional.

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