Weight-related bullying is a common experience; a 2012 survey reported 64% of teenagers in a weight-loss program had faced bullying about their weight. Some bullies may even believe their comments encourage people they see as overweight to lose the weight or “get healthy.” But previous research has linked comments about weight to weight gain.
How Comments About Weight Harm Adolescent Girls
Researchers asked 135 black and Hispanic girls to complete surveys about their weight, body image, and experiences with peers. The girls ranged in age from 9-12, with an average age of 11.
Eighty-one percent of participants were medically classified as obese, indicating a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. All participants reported being unhappy with their weight and wishing they were thinner. Fifty-two percent of participants reported experiencing weight-related teasing from other girls, and 60% said boys teased them about their weight.binge eating followed by forced vomiting, and 33% reported emotional eating.
Does Teasing Cause Weight Problems?
The results suggest adolescents who are bullied are more likely to be unhappy with their weight and more likely to adopt dangerous eating habits. The study was correlative in nature, which means researchers did not explore whether teasing directly caused unhealthy behaviors. The work instead established a correlation.
It is possible that some other factors may account for the higher rates of teasing among girls with disordered eating habits. If subsequent research replicates the results, a causal connection between weight and teasing might be found.
- Dotinga, R. (2012, December 26). Overweight Teens Report High Rates of Bullying, Teasing. Retrieved November 24, 2015, from http://consumer.healthday.com/mental-health-information-25/behavior-health-news-56/overweight-teens-report-high-rates-of-bullying-teasing-671943.html
- Olvera, N., Mccarley, K., Matthews-Ewald, M. R., Fisher, F., Jones, M., & Flynn, E. G. (2015). Pathways for disordered eating behaviors in minority girls: The role of adiposity, peer weight-related teasing, and desire to be thinner. The Journal of Early Adolescence. doi:10.1177/0272431615609155
- Preidt, R. (2015, November 20). Teasing girls about weight may cause lasting harm. Retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_155842.html
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