The role of weight teasing and weight bias internalization in psychological functioning: a prospective study among school-aged children
Weight-related teasing is a widespread phenomenon in childhood, and might foster the internalization of weight bias. The goal of this study was to examine the role of weight teasing and weight bias internalization as mediators between weight status and negative psychological sequelae, such as restrained eating and emotional and conduct problems in childhood. Participants included 546 female (52%) and 501 (48%) male children aged 7–11 and their parents, who completed surveys assessing weight teasing, weight bias internalization, restrained eating behaviors, and emotional and conduct problems at two points of measurement, approximately 2 years apart. To examine the hypothesized mediation, a prospective design using structural equation modeling was applied. As expected, the experience of weight teasing and the internalization of weight bias were mediators in the relationship between weight status and psychosocial problems. This pattern was observed independently of gender or weight status. Our findings suggest that the experience of weight teasing and internalization of weight bias is more important than weight status in explaining psychological functioning among children and indicate a need for appropriate prevention and intervention approaches.