Objective. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children is rising. Childhood obesity is associated with many negative social and psychological ramifications such as peer aggression. However, the relationship between overweight and obesity status with different forms of bullying behaviors remains unclear. The purpose of this article is to examine these relationships.
Methods. We examined associations between bullying behaviors (physical, verbal, relational, and sexual harassment) with overweight and obesity status in a representative sample of 5749 boys and girls (11–16 years old). The results were based on the Canadian records from the 2001/2002 World Health Organization Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Survey. Body mass index (BMI) and bullying behaviors were determined from self-reports.
Results. With the exception of 15- to 16-year-old boys, relationships were observed between BMI category and peer victimization, such that overweight and obese youth were at greater relative odds of being victims of aggression than normal-weight youth. Strong and significant associations were seen for relational (eg, withdrawing friendship or spreading rumors or lies) and overt (eg, name-calling or teasing or hitting, kicking, or pushing) victimization but not for sexual harassment. Independent of gender, there were no associations between BMI category and bully-perpetrating in 11- to 14-year-olds. However, there were relationships between BMI category and bully-perpetrating in 15- to 16-year-old boys and girls such that the overweight and obese 15- to 16-year-olds were more likely to perpetrate bullying than their normal-weight classmates. Associations were seen for relational (boys only) and overt (both genders) forms of bully-perpetrating but not for sexual harassment.
Conclusions. Overweight and obese school-aged children are more likely to be the victims and perpetrators of bullying behaviors than their normal-weight peers. These tendencies may hinder the short- and long-term social and psychological development of overweight and obese youth.