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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Nov;16 Suppl 2:S39-45. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.449.

The impact of weight-related victimization on peer relationships: the female adolescent perspective.

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MRC Centre of Epidemiology for Child Health, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK.



Obesity is associated with undesirable psychological and social consequences. This qualitative study examined the relationship between obesity and victimization, and the impact this has on peer relationships.


Five obese female adolescents participated in multiple, semi-structured, in-depth interviews. Interview transcriptions were analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).


Weight-related victimization experiences were common and their impact on peer relationships was complex. Low self-confidence, isolation, and peer anxiety were all identified as resulting from victimization and were all barriers to developing peer relationships. Participants sought protection from victimization by seeking the "ideal" nonjudgmental empathetic best friend(s) and supportive family members to shield them from negative experiences. However there was also evidence that, while they were guarded with their own feelings, the experience of victimization increased empathy in these obese female adolescents.


Social and psychological consequences of obesity in female adolescents are widespread, suggesting the importance of listening to those affected. Peer relationships have the opportunity to both amplify and reduce the psychological impact of living with obesity and victimization. Greater understanding of the social networks of obese adolescents and their impact on well-being is needed, as well as methods to reduce negative experiences through childhood obesity treatment and school-based prevention programs.

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