How Obesity Leads To Bullying

Obesity and bullying have a complicated relationship. While overweight students are usually the targets of bullying at school, they are also sometimes the perpetrators of bullying themselves. Still, some obese children are caught in a cycle of victimization and retribution, in which they are both the victim and perpetrator of bullying. In this article, you will learn more how obesity leads to bullying.

Obesity is clearly a factor in the bullying that children with the condition face. Bullied children may grow obese because they constantly eat to cope with the trauma.

Bullying Victimization

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Bullies target overweight children because society has a long history of disapproving and mocking fat, both explicitly and implicitly.

An obese child may still be bullied even if they exhibit all of the characteristics that generally serve to deter bullying, such as solid social skills and an excellent academic record. This is partly because bullies can identify their victims’ weaknesses and are eager to take advantage of them. Self-esteem concerns can arise in even the most well-adjusted overweight children in today’s body-conscious society, and bullies will take full advantage of this vulnerability.

Weight-Related Abuse

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The more a child weighs, the more likely they are to be abused. In a 2015 Italian study of 947 primary school students, researchers found that obese and severely obese children were considerably more likely to be bullied than were normal-weight and overweight adolescents.

Findings include:

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  • Nearly half (44 percent) of children with extreme obesity reported being called names, compared to just 10% of children of normal weight and 20% of children who were overweight.
  • Compared to 5.4 percent of typical-weight children and 8.7 percent of overweight children, 21 percent of children with extreme obesity were physically abused.
  • 18.5 percent of severely obese children were barred from group activities, compared to 5.4 percent of children without extra weight and 10.4 percent of overweight children who were excluded from group activity participation.


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Even more complicated are the reasons why obese children turn into bullies. Research shows that children with obesity are more likely to engage in bullying because they have been bullied themselves or because they are trying to prevent others from bullying them.

Bullies that are obese may not regard their weight as a liability, but rather as an asset that gives them an advantage over a smaller victim, rather than as a burden. Emotionally confused bullies sometimes demonstrate aggressive behavior while also battling emotions of inadequacy.

The Relationship Between Overweight And Obesity

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That children with extreme obesity were twice as likely to be bully victims as children of normal weight, and that children of normal weight were four times more likely to be bullies than children of severe obesity, is perhaps best depicted in the Italian study. In obese children, this shows that hostility is both a cause and a result of bullying.

Contradictory actions may result from this cause-and-effect. If a child is excessively overweight, for example, food might be a comfort in times of need, but it can also confirm feelings of helplessness and self-loathing.

What You Can Do to Stop Bullying:

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Even in the best conditions, breaking the bullying cycle is challenging. When dealing with obese children, you may need to address both weight-related and unrelated emotional difficulties.

Immediately do the following if you see your child being bullied:

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  • Your child is not to a fault.
  • Discuss your child’s feelings with them. Bullying can potentially arouse feelings that go well beyond the immediate trauma of the attack.
  • Instead of approaching the bully’s parents, talk to your child’s teacher.
  • Contact the principal if the instructor does not intervene to stop the bullying.
  • Teach your child to assert themselves verbally, not physically, and to stand up for what they believe in.

It’s possible to do several things to help if your child is a bully.

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  • Don’t take teasing lightly. Don’t dismiss it as a phase your child will outgrow.
  • Find out why your child is bullying by having a conversation with them.
  • Inspire them by setting an example that they can follow. It’s common for children to imitate their parents’ behavior.
  • Empathy is a skill that may be taught. Make sure to talk to your child if you witness someone being bullied on television or in books.
  • If you are unable to help your child with his or her emotional problems, seek the assistance of a professional.

Overall, a complex association between obesity and bullying is difficult to understand. If you’re aware of the links between the two, you’ll be more equipped to deal with bullying situations involving overweight children.

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