Parents of both overweight and normal weight children are concerned about weight-based bullying and support a variety of policy initiatives to deal with the issue, according to two new studies published by researchers at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
Researchers surveyed 918 American parents with children ages 2-18 years. The first study, published in the journal Childhood Obesity, investigated the parents’ perceptions and concerns about weight-based victimization in children.
In the first study, the findings showed that 53 percent of parents believed that the most common reason youth are bullied is because they are overweight. These views were consistent regardless of their own weight or their child’s weight.
Fewer than 13 percent believed that race, sexual orientation or disability were the most common reasons for youth being bullied. Furthermore, parents of both overweight and healthy weight children expressed similar levels of concern about the health consequences of weight-based bullying.
The second study revealed that although most parents believe that overweight youth are vulnerable to weight-based bullying at school, less than half of the parents think that schools are adequately prepared to deal with the problem.
At least 80 percent of the participants believe that schools should put into practice anti-bullying policies that include specific protections for students who are overweight or obese, increase resources for children who experience weight-related bullying at school, and promote awareness about this problem.
Support was also strong for better policy measures—more than two-thirds of parents believe that state anti-bullying laws should include specific protections against weight-related bullying.
“These studies highlight how concerned families are about weight-based bullying, and that there is substantial support among parents for a range of actions to address this problem more effectively at both the school and state level,” said Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., lead author of both studies and deputy director at the Rudd Center.
The researchers note that these findings can be used by schools and concerned parents to increase public awareness, support advocacy efforts and educate policy makers about weight-based bullying and the need for greater protection of children who are vulnerable to this form of bullying.
This article first appeared on ‘Psych Central’ on 15 December 2013.