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Keywords:

  • psychosocial;
  • peer victimization;
  • eating disorder;
  • stigmatization;
  • peer rejection

Abstract

Objective: Information regarding the prevalence, nature, sources, and psychosocial correlates of teasing was obtained for overweight (OV) children (10 to 14 years of age) vs. non-overweight (non-OV) peers. It was hypothesized that weight-related teasing would be negatively correlated with self-esteem in specific domains and with enjoyment of physical/social activities and positively correlated with loneliness, bulimic behaviors, body dissatisfaction, and enjoyment of sedentary/isolative activities.

Research Methods and Procedures: Teasing experiences and psychosocial correlates were assessed among OV children from a fitness camp and a demographically similar school sample of non-OV children.

Results: Among the OV children, appearance-related teasing was more prevalent, frequent, and upsetting, involved disparaging nicknames focusing more on weight rather than less stigmatized aspects of appearance, and more often perpetrated by peers in general rather than a specific peer. Degree of teasing within the full sample was significantly associated with higher weight concerns, more loneliness, poorer self-perception of one's physical appearance, higher preference for sedentary/isolative activities, and lower preference for active/social activities, all but the latter association holding up above and beyond actual weight status and demographics. Among OV children, teasing was associated with bulimic behaviors. Associations with type of teasing showed specificity, with weight-related teasing predicting weight and appearance variables and competency-related teasing related to social domain factors.

Discussion: When frequency, intensity, emotional impact, and stigmatized content are examined, findings indicate that teasing is more severe for OV children. Effective interventions are needed to help victims cope with and prevent further weight-related teasing, which may improve peer functioning, enhance weight control efforts, and reduce risk for future eating disturbance.