Research in the July 2017 Pediatrics suggests school-age children in the United States tend to have an unconscious bias against their peers with obesity.
For the pilot study, “Implicit Weight Bias in Children Age 9-11 Years” (published online June 23), researchers showed participants pictures of a child for 350 milliseconds, followed by a meaningless fractal pattern for another 200 milliseconds.
The 114 participants, who were between 9 and 11 years old, were then asked to rate the fractal images as “good” or “bad.” Images of children used in the study were paired based on matching age, race, gender and activity, but differed by weight of the child. On average, 64% of the abstract fractals following pictures of healthy weight children were rated as “good,” compared with 59% of those following pictures of overweight children. Authors noted that this overall implicit bias rate of 5.4% against overweight children is similar to levels seen with race in other studies.
The findings were particularly concerning in an era when one-third of children have overweight or obesity, researchers said, adding that experiencing weight stigma is linked with negative emotional and behavioral consequences.
(Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics)