European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 174, Issue 8, pp 1035–1041 | Cite as

Is subjective perception of negative body image among adolescents associated with bullying?

  • Jana Holubcikova
  • Peter Kolarcik
  • Andrea Madarasova Geckova
  • Jitse P Van Dijk
  • Sijmen A Reijneveld
Original Article


Adolescents’ body image dissatisfaction has an adverse effect on peer relationships. It may lead to changes in behaviour (aggressive or passive) and consequently to bullying behaviour. Our aim was to assess the association between body image dissatisfaction and involvement in bullying and whether this differs by gender. We used data from the Slovak part of the 2010 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study. The final sample comprised 8050 adolescents aged 11 to 15 years old (mean age 13.57), less than half of whom were boys. The association between self-reported body image and involvement in bullying was determined using multinomial logistic regression. We found a significant association between body dissatisfaction and involvement in bullying. Adolescents dissatisfied with their bodies because due to feeling overweight were more likely to become passive or reactive victims. Self-reported thinness was found to be significantly associated with bully-victims only in boys.

Conclusion: Adolescent body dissatisfaction is strongly associated with bullying behaviour. Our findings point out the importance of incorporating at schools different types of intervention programmes supporting positive self-perceptions of adolescents and reducing bullying behaviour.

What is known:

Involvement in bullying increases the risk of unhealthy development of adolescents.

This study confirms previous evidence that adolescents dissatisfied with their bodies due to feeling overweight are more likely to be involved in bullying as passive or reactive victims.

What is new:

Negative body image because of thinness was found to be associated with bullying behaviour of adolescents.

We found gender differences in the relationship between body image dissatisfaction and bullying behaviour: boys feeling too thin were at greater risk of becoming a reactive victim.


Body image Dissatisfaction Bullying Bully Victim Bully-victim 



Confidence intervals


Health Behaviour in School-aged Children


Odds ratios


Statistical Package for the Social Sciences



This work was partially supported by the Research and Development Support Agency under Contract No. APVV 0032-11, by the Scientific Grant Agency of the Ministry of Education, science, research and sport of the Slovak Republic, the Slovak Academy of Sciences, reg. no. 1/0895/14, and was also partially funded within the framework of the project “Social determinants of health in socially and physically disadvantaged and other groups of population” of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in Czech Republic CZ.1.07/2.3.00/20.0063.

Ethical standards

The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Medical Faculty at Pavol Jozef Safarik University in Kosice and was therefore performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. Parents of respondents were informed about the study via the school administration; they gave their informed consent prior to inclusion of their children in the study and could opt out if they disagreed with their child’s participation. Participation in the study was fully voluntary and anonymous with no explicit incentives provided for participation.

Conflict of interest

The authors do not have any conflict of interest in connection with the current paper.

Author’s contributions

Jana Holubcikova drafted the initial manuscript, carried out the initial analyses and revised the final manuscript as submitted. Jitse P. van Dijk revised the manuscript and approved the final manuscript as submitted. Andrea Madarasova Geckova, Sijmen A. Reijeneveld and Peter Kolarcik revised the analyses and the final manuscript and approved the final manuscript as submitted.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jana Holubcikova
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peter Kolarcik
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Andrea Madarasova Geckova
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jitse P Van Dijk
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Sijmen A Reijneveld
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Graduate School Kosice Institute for Society and Health, Medical FacultyP. J. Safarik UniversityKosiceSlovakia
  2. 2.Department of Health Psychology, Institute of Public Health, Medical FacultyP. J. Safarik UniversityKosiceSlovakia
  3. 3.Olomouc University Social Health InstitutePalacký University, OlomoucOlomoucCzech Republic
  4. 4.Department of Community and Occupational Medicine, University Medical Center GroningenUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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