Fat Kids More Likely to Be Bullied

Christa - posted on 05/03/2010 ( 18 moms have responded )

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http://health.yahoo.com/news/healthday/b...



For kids, a few extra pounds may invite trouble from the schoolyard bully.

New research suggests that just being overweight increases the risk of being bullied. And factors that usually play a role in the risk of being bullied, such as gender, race and family income levels, don't seem to matter if you're overweight -- being overweight or obese trumps all those other factors when it comes to aggressive behavior from other children.

The study found that being overweight increased the risk of being the target of bullying by 63 percent.

"One of the reasons we started this study is that obesity is so much more common today. Now that about half of kids are overweight or obese, it doesn't make you such an outlier anymore, so we thought maybe kids wouldn't be bullied for being overweight anymore," said study author Dr. Julie Lumeng, an assistant research scientist at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She added that the researchers also hoped they might be able to find some protective factors against being bullied, such as doing well in school.

"What we found, much to our dismay, was that nothing seemed to matter. If you were obese, you were more likely to be bullied, no matter what," she said.

Results of the study will be published in the June issue of Pediatrics, but were released online May 3.

The study included 821 boys and girls from a nationally representative sample of children selected from 10 sites around the United States. Bullying behaviors were assessed in third, fifth and sixth grades. The youngsters were mostly white, half of them were male and 15 percent were overweight in the third grade.

By sixth grade, teachers reported that 34 percent of the study children had been bullied, and mothers reported that 45 percent of the children had been bullied, while 25 percent of the children themselves said they had been bullied.

Previous research has shown that boys, minorities and children from low-income groups are more likely to be bullied, so the researchers took these factors into account to see if they made a difference. The study authors also considered a child's social skills and academic achievement in their analysis.

"No matter how much we retested, the findings were very robust. Obese kids are more likely to be bullied," said Lumeng.

She said that one of the reasons she believes the findings were so consistent is that prejudice against overweight or obese people is "so pervasive that it's acceptable." But, she added, "Obesity is really complex. It's not all about willpower. It's a brain-based disorder, and I hope that message becomes clearer."

Dana Rofey, an assistant professor with the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said she wasn't surprised by the findings. "Bullying is the most common psychosocial complaint that our patients present with," she said.

"For parents and pediatricians, one of the issues our study raises is that if you're caring for a child who's overweight, you need to be alert to this and you might want to gently bring it up with the child. Ask, 'How are things at school going?' or 'Does anyone ever say something that makes you feel bad?' because this may be an issue that's difficult for kids to bring up," said Lumeng.

If your child lets you know that he or she is being bullied, Lumeng said your first response should be to validate your child's feelings and let them know that it's not OK for someone to treat them like that.

What to do next can be tricky, agreed both experts.

"Be supportive, and let your child know that you'll help them. Consult with your child and ask how he or she would like you to get involved," advised Rofey. Many youngsters may ask their parents to take a hands-off approach, she said. But she recommends setting some guidelines. "Say something like, 'It seems you have this under control right now, but let's keep talking and checking in about it.'"

Rofey also recommends teaching your child how to avoid situations that might lead to teasing or bullying, and talking with your child about how to reach out to adults if they need to. Depending on the situation, she said that parents may need to step in and advocate for their children at the school. But, she advised always letting your children know what steps you'll be taking.











I think this is probably because even kids have become more tolerant of things we can not change, gender, race, income levels etc. Where as each individual has control over being fat or not. Granted children are still dependant on their parents for their food so they aren't completely in control. Thoughts??

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Caitlin - posted on 05/03/2010

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I disagree 100% with the statement that obesity is a brain based disorder. In some cases it is, but SERIOUSLY? Nobody wants to take the blame anymore, it's all genetics or someone elses fault. Put down the candy bar and try eating an apple instead! I must admit, kids don't have much control over what they eat, it's the parents that do, and i'm not saying that all obese or overweight people is due to their overeating and such, but I think it IS a big problem and needs to be adressed, not by saying "oh those bad kids for bullying you.. you're perfect just the way you are" while feeding your kid a supersized McDonalds meal for dinner every night.
I must admit that i'm somewhat lucky in a way that I CAN'T feed my kids any of that crap, because she's allergic to it all, but just becasue it's easy and fast it's fed WAY more than in should be..

?? - posted on 05/09/2010

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Self confidence is pretty hard to gain when you're being picked on constantly... I know people who have very lil self confidence as young adults that were once outgoing happy children, and it was some sort of event where they were ridiculed that made them turn inward.

I agree that having low self confidence is a sign of weakness and bullies zone in on that... but I don't think your self confidence matters when it comes down to it. I also know lots of people with lil self confidence that have never once been bullied, they just kinda... fly under the radar, so to speak.

My brother is the most egotistical, arrogant, self-confident and motivated person I have ever known... he always has been... he was all through high-school. He was the #2 soccer goaltender in all of Canada and brought our school to the top of the ranks each year he was in school, he was apart of the school team in a way that gave him THE ego.

And then in grade 11 him and his girlfriend broke up for a couple of weeks... and her friends started shit... and the bullies of the school took their toll on my brothers mentality. He went from the top of the teenage world (the star jock, straight A's, the queen of the school as his gf, the teachers loved him) to a mental institute on suicide watch.

There were 'other issues' that all stemmed from being on top and then being ridiculed, bullied, taunted, hurt by the people who he had spent the last 4 years being best friends with - they always bullied other people... not him though.

Even the biggest, the best, the toughest, the most self-confident people can be victimized by bullies.





I'll also add that it's not always children / teenagers that are bullies. Parents are bullies and teachers are bullies.

[deleted account]

Children don't have much control over their diet so it's not something they can change. Even if it was, it's none of the bullies business. The bullies need to be held accountable for their crimes no matter what the victims are.



When I was at school the popular kids did most of the bullying. Some of the victims were other kids who were on they way to stealing their popularity. Some were bullied because they were the opposite from popular. If you were too fat, too skiny, to pretty, too ugly, too smart, too dumb or too anything else the bully didn't like, you could be a target. It just goes to show that kids can't win no matter who they are or what they do when it comes to bullies. If an adult stalked, harrassed and threatened like that it would be a crime.

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[deleted account]

In the case of my second son he never had much confidence to begin with which is why he was bullied in the first place. Ive tried various ways to boost his self confidence, scouts, martial arts and now ive also removed him from the school where he was getting bullied. In my experience of my sons friends the ones bullied were one who was over weight, one who was very annoying and then one who bullied everyone else until the whole class turned on him. The only one who never deserved the grief he got was the poor overweight kid. The other two brought it on themselves. In regards to the overweight child it was a dinnertime superviser who brought the bullying on not one of the kids too.

[deleted account]

I think being a victim of bullying for whatever reason comes down to your own personal self confidence. I have two sons only 19 months apart, one is so self confident that even though hes the smallest child in the class he has never been bullied all the way through junior school, the other child has very little self confidence and has spent most of junior school being picked on. Neither of my kids are overweight, or have any other reason to be bullied but my 9 year old just seems to have born victim written all over him.

?? - posted on 05/05/2010

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I think being overweight is *now* an easier target because there are so many emotional issues that are tied to weight.



It still goes back to the bully for me. They feel fat. They're told they're fat. They have overweight relatives that they always see being ridiculed, called fat, ugly, stupid and uncontrolled. These are all reasons why 'fat people' are picked on.



With image being a HUGE focus more and more these days, the #1 thing you see every other commercial, every other radio commercial, 3 times a day + snacks - the focus is on WEIGHT. Getting fat, being fat. No exercise, not eating right.



Children pick up on these things early. And they pick up on bad views of body image early. The more we are all focusing on 'the fat people' and the more we allow the focus to be on "not being fat" and more on "being healthy" the higher that percentage is going to raise.



Like I said it's the smallest thing that can trigger a child to have a sour view on anything....... hearing mom say "Patty's getting fat, I better do an extra 5 minutes on the treadmill. I don't want to get fat like her" Or ANYTHING along those lines will cause a child to 'pick on' people that THEY see as being overweight.

[deleted account]

I think overweight kids are an easy target. I'm sure teachers are more likely to believe small, skinny kids when they report bullying. It's possible that some teachers might assume that lager children are more able to fend for themselves. I've got no facts to back that up, it's just a theory.

Kate CP - posted on 05/05/2010

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Sorry, but this whole thing came as a total "Well DUH!" to me. I grew up being teased for my weight and I wasn't even fat! I just developed breasts and hips before my classmates so they all decided that meant I was fat. I hated it. It sucks to be picked on and that's why I hate kids. I like MY kid. But if I ever find out she's been mean or nasty to another person she is going to be in BIG time trouble.

Christa - posted on 05/05/2010

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The point was not to excuse bullies for their actions. The study shows being fat out weighed all other factors by 63%, not to say people don’t get bullied for other things. I was looking more for why you think that is? What is it about a fat kid that makes them a bigger target then someone else? So basically if you are fat you are 63% more likely to get picked on that another kids all other things the same.

[deleted account]

It does not matter, you look different, you will be made fun of, I am sick and tired of people felling sorry for fat kids. I got made fun of, Tall and skinny. Glass, and High waters.

C. - posted on 05/03/2010

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When I was in school, most of the 'fat kids' WERE the bullies! It has nothing to do with weight, IMO, but instead with insecurities and what they have learned from parents, guardians or bad friends.

Suzette - posted on 05/03/2010

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There's also kids that bully because their parents bully them. They may not physically abuse them, but they emotionally, verbally, and mentally abuse them. That can teach the child that the larger pick on the smaller, weeding out the weak (so to speak). The parents have just created a bully. It could very well be an overweight child picking on the rest of the kids, or vice versa.

I don't buy it that the "fat kids" are more likely to be bullied though. When I was in school, anyone was fair game. I had bright red hair and got picked on for it, I got picked on for my freckles too. But I knew other kids who were picked onfor their glasses, their teeth, etc.

?? - posted on 05/03/2010

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That's where I think the parents need to be more aware of what they are saying and teaching their children.



Parents are so caught up in their own image and how they want to be percieved. Mommy dying her hair because it's too blonde and her making a comment like "blondes are just bimbo's" that can alter how a little girl views blondes.



A father making a comment about "that big dumb jock" or "stupid nerdy accountant" or any number of comments that put down a certain TYPE of person, can be something that alters how a child will view someone.



A mother saying freckles are so ugly, or a chin dimple makes his chin look like a butt, or saying that anyone who doesn't dress perfectly is a slob.



Children younger and younger are getting more and more aggressive in the way they view people. Physical features are less appreciated and more ridiculed in everyday life now. And THAT is where parents need to be more cautious.



That 'fat kid' is just as likely to BE a bully, as he is likely to be bullied.



Mom could be a lil bit chunky and he could be hearing her talk about 'those skinny whores' or 'those egotistical assholes that won't even look at me' and end up having a bad view of 'skinny people' and start bullying them because of it.

Rosie - posted on 05/03/2010

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i agree jo that the bullier will find some excuse always. i think they bully out of self esteem issues, and once again, our society is so preoccupied with looks that anything that isn't normal is what they go for and attack to try to make themselves feel better about whatever is wrong with them.

Caitlin - posted on 05/03/2010

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Of course that weight statement obviously threw me off topic.. I hate seeing the HUGE kids these days, I feel bad for them..

As for bullying, the bullies will find any reason to bully, as Jo said... Not saying it's acceptable, but they'll find any reason if they want to pick on you..

?? - posted on 05/03/2010

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I think that "being fat" is only 1 of endless excuses bullies will use to be a bully. I don't think that bullying behavior really has anything to do with the victim or what the bully specifically focus' on with the victim.

The 'thing' that a bully chooses to pick on the victim about isn't based on the victim. I think it's based on the bully.


Fat, skinny, freckles, buck teeth, toned body, athletic, nerd, any of the characteristics that are generally something that can be picked on, envied, viewed as a strength or a weakness - they are all equally 'vulnerable' to be subjected to bullying.


I'm not too sure how I can articulate what I mean, but I hope that makes sense.

Saying being overweight makes a child more likely to be bullied seems to take the blame off of the bully. But at the same time, we do need to make our children aware that any bullying is unacceptable and how to deal with it.

When it comes down to it though - it's the BULLY that will decide what or who they pick on and why, and generally the reason stems from their own personal issues and really doesn't have anything to do with the victim.

I hope that makes sense?

Rosie - posted on 05/03/2010

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i've always found that children who look different are the ones who were bullied. short-like my son who is bullied, fat, downs syndrome, acne-like me when younger, whatever. if we don't fit the image of what is normal or whatever than that automatically sets that kid up for bullying. we are so obsessed with the way people look, and it starts at such a young age. we need to start really emphasizing that what is on the inside is what counts, and looks aren't important in the long run.

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