Cross-national perspectives about weight-based bullying in youth: nature, extent and remedies

Pediatr Obes. 2016 Aug;11(4):241-50. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12051. Epub 2015 Jul 6.


Background: No cross-national studies have examined public perceptions about weight-based bullying in youth.

Objectives: To conduct a multinational examination of public views about (i) the prevalence/seriousness of weight-based bullying in youth; (ii) the role of parents, educators, health providers and government in addressing this problem and (iii) implementing policy actions to reduce weight-based bullying.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of adults in the United States, Canada, Iceland and Australia (N = 2866).

Results: Across all countries, weight-based bullying was identified as the most prevalent reason for youth bullying, by a substantial margin over other forms of bullying (race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion). Participants viewed parents and teachers as playing major roles in efforts to reduce weight-based bullying. Most participants across countries (77-94%) viewed healthcare providers to be important intervention agents. Participants (65-87%) supported government augmentation of anti-bullying laws to include prohibiting weight-based bullying. Women expressed higher agreement for policy actions than men, with no associations found for participants' race/ethnicity or weight. Causal beliefs about obesity were associated with policy support across countries.

Conclusions: Across countries, strong recognition exists of weight-based bullying and the need to address it. These findings may inform policy-level actions and clinical practices concerning youth vulnerable to weight-based bullying.

Keywords: Bullying; obesity; policy; weight.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Australia
  • Body Weight
  • Bullying / statistics & numerical data*
  • Canada
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iceland
  • Male
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • United States