School's Problem with Obesity

Overweight and obese children are less liked by peers

(RxWiki News) It is not easy being obese. Children who are overweight have it especially difficult because little kids can be pretty mean. In fact, little bullies can actually make the weight problem worse.

A new study shows that overweight and obese children may be liked less in school. The overweight children could respond to the negative social atmosphere by becoming less active and eating more.

"Limit TV and videogames: keep your child active!"

The study was led by Amanda Harrist, PhD, of Oklahoma State University.

“If overweight children are disliked at school, they may be less likely to play actively on the playground, during physical activity classes, and after school. They may also be more likely to engage in emotional eating as a way to cope with feeling bad at school," note the study authors.

The researchers weighed 1139 first grade students from 29 schools. Each child had his or her Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated and was classified as healthy, overweight, or obese.

The children were shown pictures of classmates and asked to rate, on a scale of one to three, how much they liked playing with the child in the picture. Similarly, teachers were asked to rate how well accepted by his or her classmates each child was.

Overweight and obese children had lower scores on average from both their classmates and from the teachers assessments.

Other studies have shown that overweight and obese children are more likely to have more days of absence from school than healthy children. The authors believe that this may be due in part to the negative emotions that overweight kids relate to being in school.

“It is important to remember that these children are only in first grade! So children with weight problems are experiencing a negative social environment very early in their educational experience. This is significant because other research shows that children who are rejected or unhappy in school have trouble learning."

The study were presented at the on April 24, 2012, at the meeting Experimental Biology 2012 and was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. Information presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until it is published in a peer reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
April 25, 2012