‘Fat Shaming’ Begins in First Grade

Adapted from MedlinePlus

As early as first grade, severely obese children are getting teased, picked on and bullied more than normal-weight kids, a new study finds.

The new research also found that these severely obese youngsters are more likely to be depressed and withdrawn. Obese children may turn to eating to cope with the pain of rejection or skip school to avoid being bullied, the researchers said.

“The social climate at school can exacerbate weight and learning problems because it is so unpleasant,” said lead researcher Amanda Harrist, a professor of child development at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

For many obese kids, home may not be much better, she said. Other studies have shown that obese children often have families that don’t handle their emotions well and make fun of their kids’ feelings, Harrist said.

“At school, these kids are teased and picked on, and nobody is playing with them, and they go home and don’t get emotional support,” she said.

Teachers need to be sensitive to the fact that these kids are being mistreated, Harrist said. But teachers can be biased against obese children, too — even overweight teachers are sometimes biased, she added.

School programs that focus on accepting people who are different may be one way of overcoming weight bias and improving the school environment for obese kids, Harrist said.

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