Bullying worries parents of overweight and obese children

September 8, 2008 Volume 4 Issue 4
  • 39% of families with children age 6-13 have one or more overweight or obese children.
  • Bullying is rated as the top health concern for children by parents of children age 6-13 who are either overweight or obese.
  • 30% of parents with overweight or obese children age 6-13 do not set limits on TV, video or computer games.

Earlier this year, obesity rated as the biggest health problem for children in the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. In this Poll, we examined the connection between parents’ weight and their children’s weight, as well as health concerns, discussion of health behaviors related to obesity, and limits that parents set for behaviors at home that could influence children’s body weight. Weights and heights were self-reported for adults; parents reported about their children.

Obesity in Families

For many families, obesity is a two-generation phenomenon. Results of this poll indicate that 39% of families with children age 6-13 have at least one child overweight (23%) or obese (16%). Children who are obese or overweight were almost twice as likely to have an obese parent than healthy weight children, 52% of families with obese children and 49% of families with overweight children had an obese parent, compared with only 26% of families with all healthy weight children having an obese parent.

Bullying is a Top Concern

For parents with overweight or obese children age 6-13, bullying is rated at the top of a list of twenty concerns for children in their communities. 36% of parents of  overweight or obese children rate bullying as a big health problem compared with only 22% of parents with healthy weight children. Parents of overweight or obese children were also more likely to rate neighborhood safety and not enough opportunities for physical activity as big health problems for children (Figure 1).

Discussion and Limits Regarding Health Behaviors

Most parents of overweight or obese children age 6-13 say that they have “a lot” of discussion about limiting junk food (69%), neighborhood safety (75%), and getting regular physical activity (68%). Nearly all parents also report setting limits on junk food, but 30% of parents do not set limits on TV, videos or computer games for their overweight or obese children.

Implications

A new finding from this Poll is that parents of overweight and obese children are so much more likely than parents of healthy weight children to rate bullying as a major health problem. This may indicate bullying that has victimized their own children, or may indicate a broader level of concern about the problem of bullying, which is known to be a problem for children with increased weight. Bullying prevention programs will need to be mindful of obesity as a potential trigger for bullying behavior. Bullying, neighborhood safety, a lack of opportunities for physical activity, and not having limits on TV, video or computer games may be significant barriers to addressing the childhood obesity epidemic.

Data Source

This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc, for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered from April 11-29 to a randomly selected, stratified group of adults aged 18 and older (n=2,064) with and without children from the Knowledge Networks standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 53% among panel members contacted to participate.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amy Butchart, MPH

This Report includes research findings from the C.S. Mott Children's National Poll on Children's Health, which do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan reserves all rights over this material.

1. Please tell us the height and weight of your child(ren).

2. Tell us about the following “rules” for your child(ren) age 6-13?

  Yes, enforced all of the time Yes, enforced some of time Do not have this rule Not applicable
Limits on TV        
Limits on video games/computers        
Limits on junk food        

3. How much have you talked with your child(ren) age 6-13 about the following:

  Have discussed a lot Have discussed somewhat Have not discussed
Neighborhood safety      
Limiting junk foods      
Getting regular physical activity      

4. Please rate how big of a problem you feel the following health issues are for children in your own community.

  Big problem Somewhat of problem Not much of a problem Not a problem
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD)        
Alcohol abuse        
Asthma        
Autism        
Bullying        
Chemicals in the environment        
Child abuse and neglect        
Childhood obesity        
Depression        
Driving accidents        
Drug abuse        
Eating disorders (like anorexia and bulimia)        
Internet safety        
Neighborhood safety        
Not enough opportunities for physical activity        
School violence        
Sexually transmitted infections        
Smoking and tobacco use        
Suicide        
Teen pregnancy        

5. Please tell us your height and weight.

Participants were also asked demographic questions on gender, race/ethnicity, number of children in the household, and each child’s age and gender.

All information is the sole property of the University of Michigan CS Mott Children's Hospital Poll on Children's health. It can only be used if there is an acknowledgment that "The information came from, is copyright by and is owned by and belongs to the Regents of the University of Michigan and their C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. It cannot be republished or used in any format without prior written permission from the University."

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amy Butchart, MS

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Health concerns rated as a "big problem" by parents of children age 6-13