Next time when you tease a child, specially a girl, about the weight or shape, bear this also in the mind. Such teasing may increase risk the child to become an addict to alcohol or drugs later.
Adolescents who are bullied about their weight or body shape may be more likely to use alcohol or marijuana than those who are not bullied, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
The link between appearance-related teasing and substance use was strongest among overweight girls, raising special concerns about this group. This type of bullying is incredibly common and has many negative effects for adolescents. The combination of appearance-related teasing and the increased sensitivity to body image during adolescence may create a heightened risk for substance use.”
“These findings raise larger issues about how society places too much emphasis on beauty and body image for girls and women and the damaging effects that may result,” said Christine McCauley Ohannessian, PhD, professor of paediatrics and psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, as well as director of the Center for Behavioural Health at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and a study co-author.
“Schools and communities should specifically address appearance-related teasing in anti-bullying policies and substance-use interventions,” she said. “Parents particularly have a role to play in addressing this issue. There is some startling research showing that some of the most hurtful examples of weight-based teasing come from parents or siblings, so families should be kind when they discuss the weight of their children.”
The study, which was conducted at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, involved a survey of 1,344 students ages 11 to 14 from five public middle schools near Hartford, Connecticut. More than half (55%) of the overall participants reported weight-based teasing, including three out of four overweight girls (76%), 71% of overweight boys, 52% of girls who weren’t overweight, and 43% of boys who weren’t overweight.
In a follow-up survey six months later, weight-based teasing was still linked to total alcohol use and binge drinking. The research was published online in Psychology of Addictive Behaviours.