Weight, body image and bullying in 9-year-old children

J Paediatr Child Health. 2013 Apr;49(4):E288-93. doi: 10.1111/jpc.12159. Epub 2013 Mar 27.


Aim: To explore the association between weight and bullying; considering victims and perpetrators as two aspects of bullying, and subjective perception and objective measurement as two aspects of weight.

Methods: This study is based on the first wave of data collection from Growing Up in Ireland - the National Longitudinal Study of Children. The two-stage sample design included a sample of 910 primary schools in Ireland, from which a sample of 8568 nine-year-old children and their families was randomly selected. Analysis is based on statistically reweighted data to ensure that it is representative of all 9-year-olds in Ireland.

Results: Significantly (P < 0.001) more girls were overweight or obese (33.1%: 23.1% overweight and 10% obese) than boys (25.2%: 18.3% and 6.9%). Children who were body mass index (BMI) classified as overweight or obese were significantly (P < 0.001) more likely to be victimised when compared with children whose BMI was not classified as overweight or obese. BMI-classified thinness was not significantly associated with victimisation; however, the body image of being skinny or very skinny was significantly (P = 0.015) associated with being victimised. Bullying perpetration was not associated with BMI-derived weight classification but was significantly (P < 0.001) associated with the child's own self-description of weight.

Conclusions: Overall body image was found to have a stronger association with victimisation and bullying perpetration than objective BMI-derived weight classification. Further research investigating the mediating role of body image in the relationship between weight, victimisation and bullying is necessary to better understand this association.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Body Weight
  • Bullying*
  • Child
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Thinness / epidemiology
  • Thinness / psychology*