Weight, body image and bullying in 9-year-old children

Type Article

Journal Article


U. Reulbach; E. L. Ladewig; E. Nixon; M. O'Moore; J. Williams; T. O'Dowd

Year of publication



J Paediatr Child Health








AIM: To explore the association between weight and bullying; considering victims and perpetrators as two aspects of bullying, and subjective perception and objective measurement as two aspects of weight. METHODS: This study is based on the first wave of data collection from Growing Up in Ireland - the National Longitudinal Study of Children. The two-stage sample design included a sample of 910 primary schools in Ireland, from which a sample of 8568 nine-year-old children and their families was randomly selected. Analysis is based on statistically reweighted data to ensure that it is representative of all 9-year-olds in Ireland. RESULTS: Significantly (P < 0.001) more girls were overweight or obese (33.1%: 23.1% overweight and 10% obese) than boys (25.2%: 18.3% and 6.9%). Children who were body mass index (BMI) classified as overweight or obese were significantly (P < 0.001) more likely to be victimised when compared with children whose BMI was not classified as overweight or obese. BMI-classified thinness was not significantly associated with victimisation; however, the body image of being skinny or very skinny was significantly (P = 0.015) associated with being victimised. Bullying perpetration was not associated with BMI-derived weight classification but was significantly (P < 0.001) associated with the child's own self-description of weight. CONCLUSIONS: Overall body image was found to have a stronger association with victimisation and bullying perpetration than objective BMI-derived weight classification. Further research investigating the mediating role of body image in the relationship between weight, victimisation and bullying is necessary to better understand this association.