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EB: Obese First Graders Often Disliked by Their Peers

Children who are overweight or obese more disliked than their healthy-weight peers

TUESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- Children who are obese or overweight are significantly more disliked than their healthy-weight peers, according to a study presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting, held from April 21 to 25 in San Diego.

Amanda W. Harrist, Ph.D., from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, and colleagues assessed the classroom as a social context for obese children in a study involving 1,139 first graders from 127 classes in 29 rural schools. Children rated how much they enjoyed playing with each of their classmates, and teachers rated the extent to which each child was liked or disliked. Classmate liking was then compared for obese, overweight, and healthy-weight children.

The researchers found that, for both peer and teacher ratings, there were significant between-group differences. According to peers, overweight and obese children were more disliked than healthy-weight children, and according to teachers, obese children were more disliked than overweight and healthy-weight children. There was a higher degree of concordance between peer and teacher ratings for obese children than other children.

"It is important to remember that these children are only in first grade! So children with weight problems are experiencing a negative social environment very early in their educational experience. This is significant because other research shows that children who are rejected or unhappy in school have trouble learning," Harrist and colleagues said in a statement.

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