Negative Peer Perceptions of Obese Children in the Classroom Environment

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
Obesity (Impact Factor: 4.39). 04/2008; 16(4):755-62. DOI: 10.1038/oby.2008.4
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT It is asserted that the more immediate and observable consequences of pediatric obesity are psychosocial in nature. This study examines the peer relations of clinically referred obese youth compared to demographically comparable nonoverweight peers within the classroom environment.
Peer-, teacher-, and self-reports of behavioral reputation (Revised Class Play (RCP)), and peer reports of social acceptance, nonsocial attributes (attractiveness, athleticism, academic competence), and health interference (school absence, illness, fatigue) were obtained regarding 90 obese youth (BMI > 95th percentile; 8-16 years, 57% girls, 50% African American) and 76 nonoverweight demographically similar comparison classmates.
Relative to comparison peers, obese children were nominated significantly less often as a best friend and rated lower in peer acceptance, although the two groups did not differ in the number of reciprocated friendships. Obese youth were described by peer, teacher, and self-report as more socially withdrawn and by peers as displaying less leadership and greater aggressive-disruptive behavior. Peers also described obese youth as less physically attractive, less athletic, more sick, tired, and absent from school. Being seen as less attractive and less athletic by peers helped to explain differences in obese and nonoverweight youth's levels of peer acceptance.
Clinically referred obese youth are characterized by peer relations that differ from those of nonoverweight youth. The peer environment provides a rich context to understand the social consequences of pediatric obesity as well as factors that could be targeted in intervention to promote more positive health and psychosocial outcomes.

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Available from: Meg H Zeller, Mar 03, 2014
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    • "In addition, it appears that obese children and adolescents have difficulties with peer relationships. As many as one-third of obese children have no reciprocated friendships (Zeller et al, 2008). Peers rank obese children among the least desirable playmates (Zametkin et al, 2004). "
    Childhood Obesity, 01/2012; , ISBN: 978-953-51-0374-5
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    • "Peer networks may also exacerbate the negative social and psychological effects of overweight among children, thereby leading to continued overeating for psychological comfort. Obese children and adolescents are more likely to be socially marginalized, bullied, and depressed than nonobese children (McNeely & Crosnoe, 2008; Zeller, Reiter-Purtill, & Ramey, 2008). Conversely, perceptions of low social status predict weight gain over time among adolescent girls (Lemeshow et al., 2008). "
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    • "Accordingly, the second study goal was to test whether the quality of overweight adolescents' friendships is associated with their SIP. Limited research has been focused on the friendships of overweight adolescents, but it is clear that they are as likely as their non-overweight peers to have at least one mutual, high-quality friendship (Carr & Friedman, 2006; Zeller, Reiter- Purtill, & Ramey, 2008), and that they typically form reciprocated friendships with similarlyoverweight peers (Crosnoe, Mueller, & Frank, 2008; Halliday & Kwak, 2009; Renna, Grafova, & Thakur, 2008; Trogdon, Nonnemaker, & Pais, 2008). No researchers, to our knowledge, have tested whether high-quality friendships may serve as protective factors and whether conflicted friendships may function as risk factors in the lives of overweight adolescents, but the aforementioned findings (Bowker et al., 2007) raise the possibility that the quality of overweight adolescents' friendships may be significantly associated their SIP. "
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    ABSTRACT: The current study examines the social information processing and coping styles (SIP) of overweight and average weight adolescents, and whether the associations between friendship quality and SIP differ for these two groups (N = 156, M age = 12.79). On the basis of height and weight assessments, overweight (n = 70) and average weight (n = 86) adolescents were identified. Participants reported on positive and conflictual qualities of their friendships, and their attributions, emotional reactions, and coping strategies in response to hypothetical negative peer events. Results revealed that for overweight adolescents, positive friendship quality was negatively associated with emotion-focused coping, and friendship conflict was positively associated with internal blame attributions, but the associations between these variables were not significant for average weight adolescents. Findings suggest that positive friendships may represent protective factors in the lives of overweight adolescents whereas highly conflictual friendships may increase risk.
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