The Grapevine

Children Who Are Overweight Have Fewer Friends, Says New Study

The school yard can be a pretty brutal place for kids with childhood conflicts and taunts from bullies. But a new study shows that school can be even more difficult for overweight students who have fewer friends. 

Read: Why People Bully: Bullies And Victims Obsessed With Losing Weight

Researchers in the Netherlands asked 700 children between 10-12 years old about their social circles, including who made the friends list and who they disliked. Then, the team looked at weight for each child and discovered that it was the overweight who had the fewest friends. 

water-fight-442257_1920 (1) New study indicates children dislike those who are heavier than they are. Pixabay

“I wasn’t expecting that the overweight children would be disliked to the extent that they were,” Kayla de la Haye of University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, and study co-author, told parenting website, Fatherly. “This is really not a nice peer context for these kids. They’re excluded, they’re overtly rejected by their classmates.”

While the study isn’t representative of a wide population, Haye and her team believe the findings depict a widespread social stigma heavier people around the world face. The reason kids didn’t like their heavier peers was unclear, but Hayes believes it’s because of the negative stereotypes and depictions associated with being overweight.

“Part of that is an unwillingness to have close social connections to people that are overweight because we hold these incorrect views that ‘overweight’ means something about them,” she tells the website.

This isn’t the first study indicating that overweight kids have a harder time in school. As we previously reported, a study in the United Kingdom from earlier this year showed bullies harrassed others mostly about weight issues. The study of 2,800 secondary school aged kids revealed that 42 percent of bullies and 55 percent of their victims were obsessed with weight loss.

"Bullies are bi-strategic — they want to be popular by being dominant through bullying but also want to look good,” study co-author Professor Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, said in a story on Medical Xpress. "In contrast those who are bullied, the victims, are occupied with weight because they have poor body and self-esteem and are emotionally stressed and hope that looking good might make them feel better.”

In this study, researchers noted that these negative attitudes about weight only cause more weight gain. Since overweight kids are shunned by their average-weight peers, they’ll make friends with heavier people, who make the same unhealthy decisions about food and physical activity.   

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Hayes believes parents need to teach their children to be supportive, which as any parent knows, can be a real struggle. Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd aims to do just that with his Making Caring Common project aimed at raising a nicer generation. According to the Washington Post, there are five strategies parents can employ to raise moral, caring children. They include: prioritize caring for others; giving opportunities to practice acts of caring and gratitude; expanding children’s areas of concern; and being a good moral role model.

See Also:

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