Fat Youth as Common Targets for Bullying
Jacqueline Weinstock and Michelle Krehbiel
Somehow I have managed to make it through high school, but it was
a tough battle laced with thoughts of suicide and depression. I have
had one serious boyfriend, but he always put me down, too … I am
not completely through my journey. I still have issues, depression,
and no self-esteem. I still get teased. (Radiance, 2004)
Are certain youth more likely than other youth to become victims of bullying? Although researchers debate this question, it is increasingly clear that being fat makes a youth an easy and common target for bullies. In this chapter, we explore the extent and impact of bullying on youth who are fat, identify the factors that likely contribute to the targeting of these youth, and reflect on strategies for intervening with and preventing this targeted bullying.
Youth bullying is now recognized as a serious problem, one with both concurrent and long-term negative effects (Craig & Pepler, 2003; Rigby, 2003). Prevalence estimates range widely across studies, with 15–30% of youth reporting some type of involvement in bullying. Among those involved, 7–13% are bullies, 9–30% victims, and 1–13% both bullies and victims (or bully-victims) (see, e.g., Demaray & Malecki, 2003; Griffiths, Wolke, Page, & Horwood, 2005; Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton, & Scheidt, 2001; Olweus, 1993). Garbarino and deLara (2002) argue that even the higher-range estimates likely underrepresent the full extent of the problem. Bullying has been identified among preschool children through to adolescents, and may reach its peak in the middle school years (Greenya, 2005; Nansel et al., 2001), with middle childhood being the time period when particular youth become regular targets/victims of bullying (Randall, 2001).
Definitions of bullying vary widely, yet there is increasing agreement among researchers that bullying “is a specific type of aggression in which (1) the behavior is intended to harm or disturb, (2) the behavior occurs repeatedly over time, and (3) there is an imbalance of power, with the more powerful person or group attacking a