The role of weight teasing and weight bias internalization in psychological functioning: a prospective study among school-aged children
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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.
KeywordsWeight teasing Weight bias internalization Psychological functioning Childhood Prospective study
This research was funded by the German Research Foundation as part of a prospective study conducted by the University of Potsdam’s Graduate School, “Intrapersonal developmental risk factors in childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal perspective” (DFG; GRK 1668). The authors would like to thank the schools and children for their contributions and all members of the study team for assessing the data.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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