Childhood Friends

Making Frenemies with Childhood Obesity

Wonder blob. Lindsay Averill received that nickname from middle school frenemies. They even made up a little song about it. Averill, now a women’s studies scholar and activist, has grown to be a closer friend with the woman who made up that song. And new research tells us that her experience is pretty common.  Having excess weight as a child often means having more frenemies – friends who don’t return your friendship.

Fewer Likes, More Dislikes for Heavier Kids

Using data from the TRAILS study, Kayla de la Haye and colleagues examined the social networks of children with a mean age of 11. They looked at friendship nominations and and dislike nominations for children by their peers.

They confirmed findings of prior research – heavier kids were less likely to be nominated for friends. But the researchers went further by examining social networks. They found that the heavier kids were more likely to nominate children they disliked to be friends.

Implicit Biases Start Early and Run Deep

In a separate study, Asheley Cockrell Skinner and colleagues document implicit weight bias in children aged 9-11. They find that it’s every bit as harsh as racial bias seen in adults.

These observations beg a question. Is BMI screening at school doing more harm than good? The potential for harm in singling out heavier kids at school should be obvious. A recent review in Current Obesity Reports finds no evidence for a benefit. CDC does not support it. The agency does not discourage it, either. It simply recommends caution.

But in an environment where kids are so cruel, and schools have no resources to help the kids affected, screening kids for obesity at school just doesn’t make sense. The bullies have that one covered.

Click here for the study by de la Haye et al and here for the study by Skinner et al. For further perspective from CNN, click here.

Childhood Friends, photograph © Yosomono / flickr

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July 9, 2017