Jul
12
2007

Heavy attitude: Kids get stigmatized by weight early on

Heavy and happy: The old television character Fat Albert was portrayed as a happy child, but a new study shows that today's overweight kids face some serious stigmatization and bias.
Heavy and happy: The old television character Fat Albert was portrayed as a happy child, but a new study shows that today's overweight kids face some serious stigmatization and bias.
Okay, it’s not exactly breaking news, but there are now solid numbers to go with something I think we’ve all known for most of our lives: heavy kids are looked down on.

The new study finds that some of that stigmatization can happen as early as three years old. And it’s not just other kids who hold a peer’s size against them. The study found that teachers, even parents, can have bias against large kids based solely on their weight.

Here are some startling findings of the report:

• Youngsters who’ve said that they’ve been picked on or teased because of their weight are two to three times more likely to report considering suicide.

• When asked to describe kids who were overweight, the most commonly used terms by other kids were mean, stupid, ugly and sloppy.

• Another study found that among middle school and high school teachers, 20 percent said that overweight kids were untidy, less likely to succeed and more emotional in their behavior.

Of course, there are the obvious health risks for overweight kids to contend with as well. But the whole issue takes on even more urgency when you look at the current demographic trends. By the year 2010, it’s estimated that almost 50 percent of children in North America will be classified as “obese.”

Maybe you’ve seen the current network television show where Shaquille O’Neal is helping a crew of overweight kids to lose weight. I haven’t see it yet, but it’s great step to turning this trend around in two ways, I think.

It will give overweight kids inspiration to lose weight themselves and maybe it will help other people see the “human” side of those who are overweight.

Is this a real serious problem? What other ideas to you have to try to turn around this situation? Share them here with other Science Buzz readers.

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