HealthDay News — As early as first grade, severely obese children are getting teased and bullied more than normal-weight children, according to a study published online May 25 in Child Development.
Amanda Harrist, PhD, a professor of child development at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, and colleagues gathered data on 1,164 first graders from 29 rural schools in Oklahoma. Rates of obesity among adults in the counties where the children lived ranged from 28% to 41%. Most of the students came from low-income white families, but about 20% of the children came from American-Indian families.
The investigators found that the heaviest children suffered most. Severely obese children were teased more than overweight children and weren’t mentioned by other children as those they wanted to play with. Severely obese children were often identified as least favorite playmates and were rarely mentioned as a most favorite playmate. Consequently, severely obese children had more teacher-rated symptoms of depression than overweight and healthy-weight children.
Compared with other children, obese and severely obese children were more likely to complain of physical problems, such as pain, and also went to the school nurse more often. These physical problems may be the result of psychological stress, Dr Harris told HealthDay.
Harrist AW, Swindle TM, Hubbs-Tait L, et al. The social and emotional lives of overweight, obese, and severely obese children. Child Dev. 2016. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12548. [Epub ahead of print]