Weight Teasing and Its Effect on Adolescent Wellbeing
Weight teasing is a sensitive topic that many parents encounter from their children, and it is prevalent among different family members and friends. It can range from fun- teasing to more severe weight-based teasing. Even if the weight teasing is meant to be funny, it can have negative effects on emotional well-being of teenagers. The effects of weight-based teasing can vary depending on the child’s coping mechanisms. Some teenagers may not respond to weight-based teasing well and this can have significant effects on their emotional wellbeing.
I present here one research study that was done to explore the association between weight-based teasing and emotional wellbeing among adolescents.
A study was conducted a few years ago to determine the association between weight-based teasing and body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, depression, and suicidal ideation among adolescents. The researchers sent surveys to children in seventh to tenth grade in various schools in the Minnesota area. This study was a subset of a bigger project, the Eating among Teens project, which examined 221 survey items and different parameters. This subset of the survey examined the association between weight-based teasing and body satisfaction, and it asked two questions:
Have you ever been teased or made fun of by other kids or family members because of your weight?
If yes, who teased you? Kids/friends, parents, or both?
The researchers examined whether weight-based teasing was associated with parameters of body satisfaction, such as self-esteem, depressive mood, and suicidal ideation. They also collected data on the participants' ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), age, and sex.
If you don’t know what BMI is and want to learn how to know if your child has an unhealthy BMI and how much weight does your child need to lose to be in a healthy weight, listen to episode 1 of the Lifestyle and Weight loss for Teens podcast here.
The sample size of this study was 4,746 students, including 2,357 adolescent girls and 2,377 adolescent boys. The sample size was quite big, with a good representation of different racial backgrounds. The results showed that 48.5% of the students were white, 19% were black, 6% were Hispanic, and 19% were Asian. In terms of weight status, 5% of the children were underweight, 63% were normal weight, 17% were overweight, and 15% were in the obese category.
The researchers found that weight-based teasing had a negative association with body satisfaction, self-esteem, and depression.
The results showed that weight-based teasing had a significant effect on the participants' emotional wellbeing.
The participants who reported being teased about their weight had lower body satisfaction scores, lower self-esteem scores, and higher depressive symptom scores than those who did not report being teased.
They also had higher suicidal ideation scores, with 25% expressing suicidal thoughts and 9% reporting suicidal attempts!!! In fact, those that were teased by both parents and friends, had double the amount of suicidal thoughts compared to the group of teens that did not have any teasing.
Moreover, the results showed that weight-based teasing from peers had a more significant effect on body satisfaction and self-esteem than weight-based teasing from parents.
However, weight-based teasing from parents had a more significant effect on depression than weight-based teasing from peers.
If you would like to learn more about this study, you can listen to episode 13 of the Lifestyle and Weight Loss for Teens podcast here
Take home message
Weight-based teasing can have significant serious effects on an individual's emotional wellbeing, particularly among teenagers. The study showed that weight-based teasing has a negative association with body satisfaction, self-esteem, and depression, and it can even bring on suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Parents and peers need to be aware of the potential detrimental effects of weight-based teasing and take steps to prevent it.
Schools and communities can also provide support to individuals who have experienced weight-based teasing.
It is essential to promote body positivity over body dissatisfaction and encourage a healthy lifestyle rather than focusing on weight alone. Parents and peers can promote healthy behaviors, such as physical activity and healthy eating, rather than criticizing or teasing individuals about their weight.
Parents can also model positive behaviors and attitudes towards body image and self-esteem. As a parent, if you have body dissatisfaction and express negative thoughts about your own body, your teen picks up on these thoughts and can easily adopt them.
If you would like to learn how to talk to your teen without creating body dissatisfaction issues, here are 5 tips I have put together for you, which you can grab for free here.
Also, if you would like to learn more about my group coaching program (LIFT Program) for teens who struggle with their weight, here is the info: What is the LIFT program
And if you are interested to join the waiting list for the LIFT Program (no commitment), click here: join waiting list
Let’s all try to create a supportive and positive environment that promotes emotional wellbeing and healthy behaviors for our teens and really anyone who struggles with their weight.
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