Obese girls are between two and five times more likely to be hit, kicked or punched by bullies than obese boys, according to research among 6,000 11 to 16-year-olds in Canada.
"The most surprising thing about this study is the relationship between obesity and violence by girls and not, as traditionally assumed, by boys," said Queen university professor Ian Janssen, who co-authored the research in the journal Pediatrics.
Overweight girls are at least four times more likely to be bullied than those who aren't, but fat youths are also more likely to become bullies, the study found. "Social and psychological consequences of obesity that affect school relations tend to be overlooked when examining overweight and obese youth," said Professor Janssen.
Bullying of obese boys decreased from 24.6 per cent of 11 and 12-year-olds to 2.6 per cent of 15 to 16-year-olds. By contrast, bullying of obese girls declined only five percentage points over that age range, from 25 to 20 per cent. Only 5 per cent of normal-weight girls reported being bullied.
Only 7.6 per cent of normal-weight 11 to 12-year-olds bullied others; but 10.5 per cent of similarly aged obese boys did. Among 15 to 16-year-old girls, only 3.3 per cent of normal-weight girls bullied others but 8.6 per cent of obese girls did.
Fifty-two per cent of Canadian boys are overweight, compared with 43 per cent of girls.