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Obese and Overweight Youth: Risk for Experiencing Bullying Victimization and Internalizing Symptoms

NCJ Number
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry Volume: 88 Issue: 4 Dated: 2018 Pages: 483-491
Tracy E. Waasdorp; Krista Mehari; Catherine P. Bradshaw
Date Published
9 pages

This study drew upon data from just over 43,000 youth attending 107 middle and high schools in examining whether a student who was obese and overweight exacerbated the association between bullying victimization and internalizing symptoms.


Although research has found that bullying victims are at increased risk for internalizing symptoms, few studies have examined whether weight status exacerbates the association between victimization and internalizing symptoms. In the current study, multilevel results suggested that compared with normal-weight youth, both overweight and obese youth were at increased risk for experiencing relational, verbal, and cyber victimization, with only obese youth being at an increased risk for experiencing physical victimization. Notably, the odds for experiencing cyber victimization were higher than the odds for experiencing other forms of victimization. The findings of this study suggest that overweight and obese youth have higher risk for bullying victimization, especially when it occurs through electronic media (i.e., cyberbullying). Further, obese victims of bullying are at an increased risk for experiencing internalizing symptoms. These findings highlight the connections between health and social-emotional well-being for youth, with particular concern regarding the risks associated with bullying victimized obese youth, who are at higher risk for internalizing systems compared with bullied victims with normal weight. These findings highlight the increased risk for psychosocial adjustment problems among frequently victimized overweight and obese youth, suggesting these youth may require preventive interventions tailored to address their particular needs. 3 tables, 2 figures, and 50 references (publisher abstract modified)