Obesity in Children
Parents of obese children rate bullying as their top health concern, and obese children who are bullied experience more depression, anxiety and loneliness. To develop effective strategies to address this problem, researchers sought to confirm that the child’s weight status is actually the primary factor underlying the bullying. In the study, “Weight Status as a Predictor of Being Bullied in Third Through Sixth Grades,” published in the June print issue of Pediatrics (published online May 3), researchers studied 821 children and their weight status and reported bullying, as well as a list of other attributes that study authors hypothesized may affect a child’s risk of being bullied. They found none of these factors played a role. Obese children had higher odds of being bullied no matter their gender, race, family socioeconomic status, school demographic profile, social skills or academic achievement. The authors conclude that being obese, by itself, increases the likelihood of being a victim of bullying. Authors suggest interventions to address bullying in schools are badly needed. Also, because stigmatization of obese children remains pervasive, health care providers who are caring for obese children should consider the role that bullying may play in the child’s well-being.
Julie Lumeng, comes on the show to discuss the role that obesity has when a child in being bullied.
Julie Lumeng is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan and Assistant Research Scientist at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan.
She is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician who studies how social inlfuences on eating behavior and children's cognitions around food may alter dietary composition and overweight risk, particularly in preschool-aged children and younger. Peers are well-documented to influence choice of food in social settings, but how these influences operate in children of diverse ethnicity and socioeconomic status is less well-understood. She studies children's eating behavior in Head Start settings, both through the direct observation of behavior during a natural meal and through the presentation of unique behavioral tasks to children that test their cognitions around food.
Dr. Lumeng also examines the influences on young children's overweight risk through the analysis of large data sets, wtih a particular focus on child care experience and quality, and neighborhood characteristics. Other projects include the evaluation of mother-child interactions around eating, and how maternal behavior affects a child's eating behavior, both in preschoolers and infants.
Melanie Cole, M.S.