Weight-teasing among adolescents: Correlations with weight status and disordered eating behaviors

D. Neumark-Sztainer, N. Falkner, M. Story, C. Perry, P. J. Hannan, S. Mulert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

450 Scopus citations

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to assess the prevalence of perceived weight-teasing and associations with unhealthy weight-control behaviors and binge eating in a population-based sample of youth. Particular focus was placed on overweight youth, who may be most vulnerable to weight-teasing. METHODS: The study population included 4746 adolescents from St Paul/Minneapolis public schools who completed surveys and anthropometric measurements as part of Project EAT, a population-based study of eating patterns and weight concerns among teens. RESULTS: There were statistically significant associations between perceived weight-teasing and weight status; both overweight and underweight youth reported higher levels of teasing than average weight youth. Very overweight youth (body mass index (BMI) ≥ 95th percentile) were most likely to be teased about their weight; 63% of very overweight girls, and 58% of very overweight boys reported being teased by their peers, while weight-teasing by family members was reported by 47% of these girls and 34% of these boys. Youth who were teased about their weight, particularly overweight girls, reported that it bothered them. Perceived weight-teasing was significantly associated with disordered eating behaviors among overweight and non-overweight girls and boys. For example, among overweight youth, 29% of girls and 18% of boys who experienced frequent weight-teasing reported binge-eating as compared to 16% of girls and 7% of boys who were not teased. CONCLUSIONS: Many adolescents, in particular those who are overweight, report being teased about their weight and being bothered by the teasing. Weight-teasing is associated with disordered eating behaviors that may place overweight youth at increased risk for weight gain. Educational interventions and policies are needed to curtail weight-related mistreatment among youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-131
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Volume26
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grant MCJ-270834 (D Neumark-Sztainer, principal investigator) from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Title V, Social Security Act), Health Resources and Service Administration, US Department of Health and Human Services.

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Binge eating
  • Dieting
  • Stigmatization
  • Teasing

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