Youth seeking weight loss treatment report bullying by those they trust

December 27, 2012 by Megan Orciari

(Medical Xpress)—Even as adolescents struggle to lose weight through treatment programs, they often continue to experience weight-based discrimination—not just from their peers, but from adults they trust, including parents and teachers. The study by researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale appears online in the journal Pediatrics, and is the first comprehensive examination of how weight-based victimization impacts youth seeking weight-loss treatment.

The researchers conducted a survey of 361 enrolled in two national weight-loss camps, and asked them about the nature and extent of victimization they had experienced because of their weight.

The majority of adolescents reported that they were teased and bullied most at school, with reports of victimization highest among those who were the heaviest. Most adolescents reported being victimized for over a year, and some reported they were teased and bullied for five years or more. For some, the victimization continued even after losing weight.

Although and friends were the most commonly reported perpetrators of teasing and bullying, high percentages of adolescents also reported being teased and bullied about their weight by trusted , including physical education teachers and sports coaches (42%), parents (37%), and classroom teachers (27%). Weight-based victimization was most frequently experienced as verbal teasing, followed by relational victimization (being ignored and excluded by peers), cyber-bullying, and physical aggression. 

"While our findings suggest that teasing and bullying may be inevitable for the heaviest youth, it is striking that even formerly overweight youth who have lost weight and whose body weight is now considered healthy may still be vulnerable to weight-based victimization," says lead author Rebecca Puhl, the Rudd Center's director of research.

"It's also concerning that over a third of adolescents reported weight-based victimization from parents," Puhl adds. "These findings highlight the need for parental education so that parents can use more sensitive and supportive strategies when talking about weight-related health with their child."

The authors assert that health providers, school personnel, and weight loss program staff can all play a role in helping these youth by looking for signs of teasing, bullying, or associated psychological distress; identifying whether youth have a support system in place to deal with bullying; sharing concerns about bullying with parents; and assisting in efforts to obtain resources for youth in need of support.

Explore further: Study details bullying involvement for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder

Related Stories

Study details bullying involvement for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder

September 3, 2012
A study based on information collected from 920 parents suggests an estimated 46.3 percent of adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder were the victims of bullying, according to a report published Online First by Archives ...

A doctor's words can enforce weight stigma

September 26, 2011
The language that health care providers use when discussing a child's weight with parents can reinforce negative weight-based stigma and jeopardize discussions about health, finds a study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy ...

Study highlights the power of positive relationships for girls' mental health

October 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—The experience of being bullied is particularly detrimental to the psychological health of school girls who don't have social support from either adults or peers, according to a new study by Dr. Martin ...

Recommended for you

Are sugary drink interventions changing people's behaviour?

July 19, 2017
An evaluation of efforts designed to reduce how many sugary drinks we consume shows some success in changing younger people's habits but warns they cannot be the only way to cut consumption.

Young adult obesity: A neglected, yet essential focus to reverse the obesity epidemic

July 18, 2017
The overall burden of the U.S. obesity epidemic continues to require new thinking. Prevention of obesity in young adults, while largely ignored as a target for prevention and study, will be critical to reversing the epidemic, ...

Weight gain from early to middle adulthood may increase risk of major chronic diseases

July 18, 2017
Cumulative weight gain over the course of early and middle adulthood may increase health risks later in life, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that, compared ...

Study finds children carry implicit bias towards peers who are overweight

June 23, 2017
Even children as young as 9 years old can carry a prejudice against their peers who are overweight, according to a new study led by Duke Health researchers. They might not even realize they feel this way.

Mother's obesity boosts risk for major birth defects: study

June 15, 2017
Children of obese women are more likely to be afflicted by major birth defects, including malformations of the heart and genitals, according to a study published on Thursday.

New study finds more than 2 billion people overweight or obese

June 12, 2017
Globally, more than 2 billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.