Primary Schools

The long-term effects of the playground…

Child being bullied

It’s a recognized fact that what goes on in childhood sticks with us for the rest of our lives and informs who we are and who we will become. What, perhaps, is more surprising is this week’s revelation that bullying victims are more likely to become obese.

Unsurprisingly, the comments that followed the article, posted online earlier this week, contained a high proportion of remarks from those who appeared to have misread the article and were commenting on overweight children being bullied. The article was not, in fact, about larger kids being picked on at school; it addressed how being picked on in the playground can result in children becoming obese in adulthood.

Academics at King’s College London studied over 7,000 children born in 1958 whose parents were asked whether they had been bullied at the ages of seven and eleven. The findings reflected that 26 per cent of women who had been bullied in childhood were obese at the age of 45, compared to 19 per cent of those who had never been picked on at school. It also showed that 25 per cent of male bullying victims were obese, compared to 23.6 per cent who were not.

It would be interesting to know if any of those grown-up children, who took part in the study, had demonstrated a propensity to put on weight before the bullying took place. If that was the case it would most certainly indicate evidence of a vicious circle, if nothing else: Child has tendency to put on weight, child gets bullied as a result, child then goes on to put on more weight…

The article pointed out that one in five children are thought to experience bullying at school – given that we also refer to stats that indicate that at least one in four are overweight and that one in five leave primary school clinically obese, there will definitely be a correlation at some point.

And obesity is just one in a long line of problems that have been linked to bullying; other potential issues include anxiety, self-harm, alcoholism and depression.

What is most evident though – and we don’t need academics or journalists to point out this truth – is that bullying is incredibly distressing and stays with you forever.

If a child has been bullied or is being bullied then there has to some form of adult intervention. Besides addressing the here and now and putting a stop to the problem, parents need to keep an eye out for the after effects, help the child to work on their self-esteem and present a constant source of reassurance.