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Stigmatization of obese children and adolescents, the importance of gender


BL Heitmann, H:S Institute of Preventive Medicine, Øster Søgade 18, 1, DK-1357 Copenhagen K, Denmark. E-mail:


To review the literature on stigmatization of overweight girls and boys, with a specific attention to gender differences, a search was performed in the medical as well as the psychological literature. The following databases, Medline, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Scopus, Web of Science and Cochrane as well as Google were used to retrieve information. Finally, chain references were sought. The search was concluded mid-2006. In total, 17 studies were identified. The results from the studies generally indicated that overweight girls seemed to experience a higher degree of stigmatization than overweight boys. The overweight girls were to a larger degree teased about their weight and relationally, verbally and physically bullied. In addition, they were more socially marginalized in respect to friendships and romantic relationships. Stigmatization of overweight children and adolescents indeed occurs, but is more prevalent in overweight girls than overweight boys. There is a need to conduct further studies that are specifically designed to evaluate gender differences in stigmatization of overweight children and adolescents, and for studies focusing on preventing this stigmatization.