Online Program

Perceived Weight and Bullying Victimization in Boys and Girls

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 8:30 a.m. - 8:50 a.m.

Felicia R. Carey, MPH, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, University of Texas School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus, Austin, TX
Anna V. Wilkinson, PhD, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, University of Texas School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus, Austin, TX
Nalini Ranjit, PhD, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, Dept. of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, University of Texas School of Public Health, Austin, TX
Dorothy Mandell, PhD, Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, TX
Deanna Hoelscher, PhD RD LD CNS, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, University of Texas School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus, Austin, TX
Background: Studies have examined the association between objective weight status and bullying behaviors among children, but research suggests that perceived weight may pose separate risks on increasing an adolescent’s vulnerability to bullying victimization. In this study, we investigated perceived and objective weight and self-reported bullying victimization among school-aged children.

Methods: Data were analyzed for 6716 students from the 8th and 11th grade School Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) project, a probability-based survey of public school students in Texas to determine the prevalence of child obesity and related risk factors. Questionnaires collected data on demographic factors, self-reported bullying victimization, self-reported weight perceptions, and age-adjusted body mass index calculated based on objectively measured height and weight. We examined if the prevalence of bullying victimization among children differed by perceived and objective weight status, and how these associations varied according to gender.

Results: Overall, 10.8% [CI: 7.9%-14.4%] of students reported being bullied in the last 6 months. Nearly 70% of normal weight [CI: 63.3%-72.5%] and overweight [CI: 63.1%-77.1%] adolescents perceived themselves as weighing the right amount, as well as almost 50% of obese adolescents [CI: 41.0%-55.9%]. Perceiving one’s own weight as being too little or too much compared to peers was significantly associated with increased bullying victimization (p<0.05) in unadjusted and adjusted models, whereas objective weight was not associated with victimization. When interactions between perceived weight and gender were examined, perceived weight was significantly associated with bullying victimization (p<0.05) among boys only, with perceiving one’s own weight as being too little compared to peers increasing the odds of being victimized.

Conclusions: Perceived weight may play a greater role in predicting bullying victimization among adolescents than objective weight. This association is especially relevant among boys, where perceiving oneself as being smaller than peers increases the odds of victimization. Interventions to prevent bullying should consider adolescents’ self-perceptions of weight status to effectively identify those who are most at risk for victimization.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe how perceived and objective weight are associated with bullying victimization in school-aged children. Demonstrate the ways in which the association between perceived weight and bullying victimization differ by gender.

Keyword(s): Obesity, Youth Violence

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been previously involved in research and analyses related to child and adolescent behavioral health, including topics such as bullying in adolescent populations and childhood obesity. I also have an academic background in child development and behavior and epidemiological research methods.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.