Weightism, racism, classism, and sexism: shared forms of harassment in adolescents

J Adolesc Health. 2013 Jul;53(1):47-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.01.006. Epub 2013 Apr 6.


Purpose: To document the prevalence of harassment on the basis of weight, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, as well as sexual harassment, among a diverse population of adolescents. Specifically, this study examined rates of each type of harassment reported across groups within the corresponding sociodemographic category (e.g., racial/ethnic category differences in prevalence of racial harassment), and also explored patterns of "cross-harassment" (i.e., differences in prevalence of each harassment type across all other sociodemographic characteristics).

Methods: We used data from Project Eating and Activity in Teens 2010 for the study. The sample was composed of 2,793 adolescents (53% female; 81% nonwhite). We conducted regression analyses to yield prevalence estimates of each type of harassment in each demographic and body mass index category.

Results: Weight- and race-based harassment (35.3% and 35.2%, respectively) was most prevalent, followed by sexual harassment (25.0%) and socioeconomic status-based harassment (16.1%). Overweight and obese adolescents reported disproportionately higher rates of all forms of harassment than did normal-weight and underweight adolescents. In addition, Asian and mixed-/other race adolescents were more vulnerable to harassment overall compared with those from other racial/ethnic groups.

Conclusions: Harassment experiences are prevalent among adolescent boys and girls. Differential rates of each type of harassment are reported across groups within the corresponding sociodemographic category, but a pattern of cross-harassment also is evident, such that differences in prevalence of each type of harassment emerge across a variety of sociodemographic characteristics. Adolescents from various intersecting sociodemographic and weight-status groups are particularly vulnerable to certain types of harassment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bullying
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Racism / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexism / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors