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Childhood Obesity: The Psychological Repricussions

Feb 25, 2008
Everyone knows the physical ramifications of childhood obesity, but when it comes to the psychological aspects, psychiatric science is playing catch up a bit.

While it is well known that a child or adolescent who suffers from childhood obesity is picked on and isolated from peers, the exact consequences and the extent of emotional damage are just not being uncovered.

Scientists and researchers at the Department of Psychology, University of Ghent, Belgium explored the causal relationship between childhood obesity and psychosocial adjustment in combined clinical and non-clinical samples of 139 obese children and 150 non-obese children. The kid's ages ranged from 9 to 12 years and matched for age, socioeconomic status, and gender.

Parents for the children were asked to fill out and complete a Child Behavior Checklist for a Perceived Competence Scale for Children.

Kids suffering from childhood obesity reported far more negative physical self-perceptions than their non-obese peers and they scored lower on general self-worth. According to their parents, the obese children of the clinical sample appeared to have more behavior problems.

The depths of childhood obesity go even deeper because children, who are obese and remain that way for some time, suffer from a host of psychological scars, culminating in self esteem issues so severe that they can become anti-social and reclusive.

Fact of the matter is, childhood obesity can have a lasting impact on the psyche of a child. This is primarily because our society places so much importance on physical attractiveness as it relates to thinness, and that, coupled with misinformation about some of the causes of childhood obesity, can cause distress for overweight kids.

Obese children often feel isolated and lonely and are often the butt of jokes and magnets for ridicule.
What is the remedy?

Education. People need to understand the root causes of childhood obesity, and realize that not all causes are due to "a lack of will power" as is perceived by most.
It is important that educators and parents become sensitive to the issues associated with childhood obesity. While kids will always establish something of a pecking order, adults must counter balance this by instilling confidence in overweight children, especially since child's self-image is often affected by the perceptions of peers.

A mixture of public education with parental guidance will help a child who is overweight move past the painful periods between pre-adolescence and adult hood and could lead to the eradication of childhood obesity altogether.
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