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Keywords:

  • bullying;
  • epidemiology;
  • school age children;
  • weight perception;
  • weight status

Aim

To explore the association between weight and bullying; considering victims and perpetrators as two aspects of bullying, and subjective perception and objective measurement as two aspects of weight.

Methods

This study is based on the first wave of data collection from Growing Up in Ireland – the National Longitudinal Study of Children. The two-stage sample design included a sample of 910 primary schools in Ireland, from which a sample of 8568 nine-year-old children and their families was randomly selected. Analysis is based on statistically reweighted data to ensure that it is representative of all 9-year-olds in Ireland.

Results

Significantly (P < 0.001) more girls were overweight or obese (33.1%: 23.1% overweight and 10% obese) than boys (25.2%: 18.3% and 6.9%). Children who were body mass index (BMI) classified as overweight or obese were significantly (P < 0.001) more likely to be victimised when compared with children whose BMI was not classified as overweight or obese. BMI-classified thinness was not significantly associated with victimisation; however, the body image of being skinny or very skinny was significantly (P = 0.015) associated with being victimised. Bullying perpetration was not associated with BMI-derived weight classification but was significantly (P < 0.001) associated with the child's own self-description of weight.

Conclusions

Overall body image was found to have a stronger association with victimisation and bullying perpetration than objective BMI-derived weight classification. Further research investigating the mediating role of body image in the relationship between weight, victimisation and bullying is necessary to better understand this association.