Lifestyle

 

Bullies Target Obese Kids

yahoo.com | 05/04/10

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For kids, a few extra pounds may invite trouble from the schoolyard bully.

New research suggests that just being overweight increases the risk of being bullied. And factors that usually play a role in the risk of being bullied, such as gender, race and family income levels, don't seem to matter if you're overweight -- being overweight or obese trumps all those other factors when it comes to aggressive behavior from other children.

The study found that being overweight increased the risk of being the target of bullying by 63 percent.

"One of the reasons we started this study is that obesity is so much more common today. Now that about half of kids are overweight or obese, it doesn't make you such an outlier anymore, so we thought maybe kids wouldn't be bullied for being overweight anymore," said study author Dr. Julie Lumeng, an assistant research scientist at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She added that the researchers also hoped they might be able to find some protective factors against being bullied, such as doing well in school.

"What we found, much to our dismay, was that nothing seemed to matter. If you were obese, you were more likely to be bullied, no matter what," she said.

Results of the study will be published in the June issue of Pediatrics, but were released online May 3.

The study included 821 boys and girls from a nationally representative sample of children selected from 10 sites around the United States. Bullying behaviors were assessed in third, fifth and sixth grades. The youngsters were mostly white, half of them were male and 15 percent were overweight in the third grade.

By sixth grade, teachers reported that 34 percent of the study children had been bullied, and mothers reported that 45 percent of the children had been bullied, while 25 percent of the children themselves said they had been bullied.

Previous research has shown that boys, minorities and children from low-income groups are more likely to be bullied, so the researchers took these factors into account to see if they made a difference. The study authors also considered a child's social skills and academic achievement in their analysis.

"No matter how much we retested, the findings were very robust. Obese kids are more likely to be bullied," said Lumeng.

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