Weight Bias & Stigma > Kids and Teens

Resources

For kids and teens, weight bias is often experienced as teasing, bullying, and victimization. Young people who have a higher body weight may face multiple sources of weight bias in the school setting. This can include physical bullying, verbal teasing (name calling or derogatory remarks), cyber bullying, and relational victimization (being ignored, excluded from activities, or being targeted for rumors). Many young people face these forms of stigma every day, especially in school - not just harassment by fellow students, but also biased attitudes and actions from teachers and school health care workers. For example, Rudd Center research has found that weight-based bullying is one of the most common forms of bullying reported by youth, and that some teachers have lower expectations for students with overweight than for "normal weight" students in many areas, including social, physical, reasoning, and cooperation skills. Thus, efforts to combat weight bias in the school setting must include initiatives to educate both students and teachers.

Furthermore, family members can sometimes contribute to the weight bias that youth experience. Our research has found that youth with obesity report experiencing weight-based teasing from their parents and other family members, and these experiences can have lasting health consequences. 

Together, all these sources of weight bias can have a major impact on young people’s psychological, social, and physical health. On an emotional level, being teased or bullied about weight can lead to poor body image, low self-esteem, depression, and suicidal thoughts. These experiences also have negative consequences for physical health, as young people who are teased or bullied about their weight are more likely to engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors, binge eating, less physical activity, and are more likely to gain weight over time. 

Our research shows that there are a number of ways that students, teachers, and parents can provide support to young people who are being teased or bullied about weight. For more information on these topics, please see our resources for parents and teens.

For Kids

For Teenagers

Video: Weight Prejudice: Myths & Facts

Video Discussion Guide

Video: Weight Bias at Home and School

Video Discussion Guide