Obese and Overweight Youth: Risk for Experiencing Bullying Victimization and Internalizing Symptoms

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Abstract

Obese and overweight youth are at an increased risk for poor peer relations and psychosocial adjustment. Of particular concern is the high rate of bullying victimization experienced by obese and overweight youth. While it is known that victimized youth are at an increased risk for internalizing symptoms, few studies have examined if weight status exacerbates the association between victimization and internalizing symptoms. The current study drew upon data from over 43,000 youth attending 107 middle and high schools. Multilevel results suggested that compared with normal weight youth, both overweight and obese youth were at an increased risk for experiencing relational, verbal, and cyber victimization, with only obese youth being at an increased risk for experiencing physical victimization. Notably, the odds for experiencing cyber victimization were higher than the odds for experiencing other forms of victimization. Frequently victimized obese youth, but not frequently victimized overweight youth, had significantly higher levels of internalizing symptoms compared to their frequently victimized, normal-weight peers. Together, these findings highlight the increased risk for psychosocial adjustment problems among frequently victimized overweight and obese youth, suggesting these youth may require preventive interventions tailored to meet their unique needs.

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