Overweight kids face low social status at school

Friday 7th May, 2010

New research has highlighted the problems faced at school by children who are overweight or obese.

A study by researchers at the University of Crete, which was presented to the British Psychological Society, has found that obese pupils are more likely to face struggles with low social status.

The study of 414 children aged 5-10 years-old involved calculating each child’s body weight to ascertain if they were underweight, average or overweight/obese.

The children were then each asked to choose three of their fellow pupils who they would most like to invite to a party and three that they would least like to be there.

The choices were found to be directly proportionate to the chosen child’s Body Mass Index (BMI). Those children who were either average weight or underweight were most popular while the ones who were rejected were more likely to be overweight or obese. There was also a stronger trend among boys.

Some of the year groups had obese classmates who were given no invitations at all while children who were obese themselves chose thinner classmates to invite rather than overweight peers.

Further research into the stigma surrounding obese children involved participants listening to stories about fictional characters with positive and negative traits who were involved in activities with sporting or creative abilities.

Children were then shown pictures of identical figures with varying body sizes and asked to choose which figure would be associated to positive or negative characteristics based on the actions in the stories.

The children attributed positive characteristics to average or underweight figures while negative traits such as rudeness and incompetence were assigned to those figures shown as obese.

“The stigma against overweight children starts early and remains in the years ahead,” said lead researcher of the study Dr Ekaterina Kornilaki.

“This study shows that children clearly regard gaining weight as a disastrous outcome and something to be avoided at all costs.

“This study highlights the need for early preventive educational programmes, which address the high levels of anti-fat bias and social stigmatisation of overweight children and challenge the negative stereotypes involved.”

Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to calculate health body weight, although it does not actually measure the percentage of body fat.

Those who are underweight have a BMI less than 18.5. The normal range is 18.5 to 24.9. Overweight is classed as 25 to 29.9, while obese is more than 30.

You can calculate your child’s BMI using our simple online calculator. Just click on the image below




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