Psychosocial Effects Of Child Obesity

Risks of child obesity on children's emotional well being

child obesityChildhood obesity brings some psychosocial effects as well. Obese children and adolescents are targets of early and systematic social discrimination. The social and emotional fallout can also hurt them. All children have to construct an identity and a concept of themselves. Part of this construction involves monitoring how significant others, friends and peers respond to them, along with the value judgments that accompany those perceptions. This takes place in environments that are overlaid with cultural and societal attitudes, values and conformities. Child obesity develops a sense of self, self-esteem and cope with the consequences of their body status against this back-drop.

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Some psychosocial effects of childhood obesity include:

Child Obesity & Negative Image

Most children are aware of obesity as socially undesirable from a very early age. This awareness appears to be generalized from studies using stereotypes, with similar negative responses regardless of gender, age, or own body status. Consequently the overweight child is perceived as 'fair game'.

Low self-esteem

Children often tease or bully their overweight peers, who may bear a loss of self-esteem which leads to depression as a result. Children can become aware of their body status at relatively low levels of fatness through mechanisms such as reference to photographs and name-calling. In middle years, children perceive fatness impacting on appearance and athletic ability, but not social competence or global self worth. Also the importance that child obesity assumes differs between children.

childhood obesity effects

A review of self-esteem and obesity in children found similar numbers of studies where no relationship was apparent, as those where obese children had lower self-esteem (studies with up to 12 year-olds), and there was some evidence for high self-esteem protecting against child obesity. An inverse relationship between child obesity and self-esteem appeared more consistent in adolescence. They concluded that low self-esteem may be characteristic of childhood obesity, affecting body esteem to a greater extent. All of which in turn affects self-efficacy, self-enhancement and self-protection. If you suspect that your child is getting picked on, contact the school to alert teachers and administrators about the problem and have it addressed.


psychosocial effects of childhood obesityObesity in children may cause overwhelming feeling of hopelessness because of social isolation and low self-esteem that leads to depression. A depressed child may lose curiosity in normal activities, sleep more than usual or cry. The psychological stress of social stigmatization causes depression which can effect academic and social functioning, and persist into adulthood. Some depressed children hide their sadness and appear emotionally flat instead. Either way, depression is as serious in children as in adults. If you think your child is depressed, talk with him or her and share your concerns with his or her doctor and teacher.

Behavior and learning problems

Obesity in children causes more nervousness and poorer social skills than normal-weight children have. These problems may guide to acting out and disrupting the classroom. On the other hand, they may cause social abandonment. Depression and anxiety also effect in learning and can create a vicious cycle in which ever-growing worry fuels ever-declining academic performance. Stress and anxiety also interfere with learning. School-related anxiety can create a vicious cycle in which ever-growing worry fuels ever-declining academic performance. If you think your child is depressed, talk with him or her and share your concerns with his or her doctor.

                                  Weight Teasing an Emotional Crisis for Kids

Kids who are teased about their weight, regardless of how much they actually weigh, experience significant emotional distress. At the same time, kids who actually are overweight tend to have smaller social networks and be socially marginalized.

These conclusions come from studies in the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, which is a special theme issue on obesity.

Teasing could range from "Hey fatso! Get out of my way!" to the more gentle, "Maybe you should have a salad instead of a burger."

Teens who were taunted reported low levels of satisfaction with their body, low self-esteem, high depressive symptoms and thoughts about and attempts at suicide. Kids who got teased by both family members and peers had a higher rate of emotional distress than those who were teased by one group or the other.

Teasing had a detrimental effect, regardless of the child's actual weight.

"To find it so clear across boys and girls, across racial groups, across weight categories really says we've tapped into something important. Being teased about your weight really hurts," adds Eisenberg, a research associate at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and School of Public Health.

Although overweight adolescents listed a similar number of friends as did teens of normal weight, the overweight adolescents were less likely to be listed as a friend by their peers. A normal-weight teen received an average of 4.79 friendship nominations, versus 3.39 for an overweight teen. In addition, overweight teens were 70 percent more likely to receive no friendship nominations than their normal-weight peers

childhood obesity preventionTips for parents

What can you do as a parent or guardian or caregiver to help preventing childhood obesity? We have some ideas in our Childhood Obesity Prevention section.

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long term effects of childhood obesityLong Term Effects Of Childhood Obesity
The long term effects of child obesity are numerous. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the development of diseases such as type 2 diabetes are all major childhood obesity effects.

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