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Self-Esteem, Physical Self-Efficacy, and Teasing Experiences in Pediatric Obesity

1 January 2017


Children with pediatric obesity face a broad range of medical and psychosocial impacts. While the research has focused primarily on medical effects, some psychosocial effects have been identified, including depression, poor self-esteem, anxiety, and behavioral issues. Significant racial and socioeconomic discrepancies in rates of obesity appear by early childhood. Children who are obese are subjected to a significantly higher level of physical-appearance related teasing, by peers, family members, and others. The research is limited on what the effects of this teasing may be, although preliminary research suggests it has long-lasting negative impacts. This mixed-methods study examined the physical appearance-related teasing experiences of children with pediatric obesity, and how these experiences correlate with body esteem and physical self-efficacy. Data from 56 children between the ages of 9 and 13 (M = 11.11) completed a qualitative questionnaire about their teasing experiences; of those, 31 also completed quantitative questionnaires. Although no statistical analyses were significant, children who reported more physical appearance-related teasing experiences also tended to report lower body esteem and lower physical self-efficacy. On qualitative questionnaire, children who were teased about their physical appearance endorsed a range of negative feelings about their teasing, including sadness, embarrassment, and anger. Some children demonstrated resilience amidst teasing. Of note, the majority of children who reported being teased stated that they did not do anything in response to teasing, or they ignored the teasing. Implications of these results are discussed, as well as clinical, intervention, and further research recommendations.


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