Ending obesity stigma begins in the home
A study co-authored by a University of Hawaii psychologist finds that overweight children continue to be stigmatized.
A new study co-authored by a University of Hawaii psychologist finds that overweight children continue to be stigmatized
, experiencing a quality of life as if they were afflicted with cancer. Parents should recognize the stigma and try to combat it, beginning with their own behavior.
Little has changed since 1961, when a similar study found that overweight children were stigmatized. When 10- and 11-year-old children were asked to rank whom they would want for their friend and were shown pictures of a child on crutches, one in a wheelchair, one with an amputated hand, another with facial disfigurement, and two children with no disabilities -- one average-weight and the other fat -- the fat child was chosen overwhelmingly last.
The stigmatization directed at obese children by their peers, parents, educators and others is pervasive and often unrelenting," according to an analysis published in this month's issue of Psychological Bulletin. The article was written by researchers Rebecca M. Puhl of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and and Obesity and Janet D. Latner of UH-Manoa.
Programs to prevent childhood obesity are growing, including Latner's co-authored new book, "Self-Help Approaches for Obesity and Eating Disorders: Research and Practice." But Puhl and Latner expect nearly half the children in North America and 38 percent of European children will be overweight by 2010. They conclude that more efforts are needed to protect overweight children from abuse.
"The quality of life for kids who are obese is comparable to the quality of life of kids who have cancer," said Puhl, the study's lead author. "These kids are facing stigma from everywhere they look in society, whether it's media, school or at home."
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