Recently, Childhood Obesity News talked about the videos made by Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., and associates, on behalf Yale University’s Rudd Center, where Dr. Puhl is Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives. They also produced “Weight Bias at Home and School,” which is partly narrated by Emme, the first plus-size supermodel. Teenagers talk about the horror of shopping for clothes, and the misery of listening to their classmates’ opinions about what clothes they are too fat to wear.
There is mention of kids being not only teased, but pinched or even spit on. One surprising fact is that children and teens are likely to be picked on not only by their fellow students, but even by teachers. On the “quality of life” measurement scale, obese kids score as low as kids with cancer. On the plus side, there are suggestions for the viewer to look inside himself or herself and expunge the deep-rooted tentacles of weight bias and prejudice.
There are suggestions for parents, too, on how to help when a child is depressed or hurt by something that happens at school. Reassure your child that s/he does not deserve to be treated badly, and remind her or him of all the strengths that s/he possesses as a person.
Much more detail
These matters and many others are explored more deeply in Dr. Puhl’s presentation, “Clinical Implications of Obesity Stigma,” which is available as a PDF download. The shocking thing is how early it starts. Preschool children, as young as three years old, characterize overweight kids as “mean, ugly, stupid, undesirable playmates.” Dr. Puhl goes on to say:
In elementary school, the likelihood of being bullied is 63% higher for an obese child compared to a healthy weight peer. Obese youth are less accepted by peers; stereotyped as lazy, unfriendly, dishonest.
In middle school, weight-related teasing elicits most negative emotional reactions compared to teasing for other reasons, and is more prevalent, frequent, and longer lasting for overweight youth.
In the teen years, kids are bullied for being overweight more frequently than for their sexual orientation, academic status, race or ethnicity, physical disabilities, religion, or economic status. They are made fun of, called names, verbally threatened, and physically harassed. Often they are ignored, avoided, and excluded, which might feel even worse.
One might say that overweight is the “new poor.” And how amazing is it that weight bias tops appearance, ethnicity, religion, and even being (or being perceived as) gay or lesbian? When you consider the horrors that have been perpetrated against individuals and whole populations in the name of those four reasons for prejudice, the magnitude of weight bias is quite frighteningly impressive.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!