SUNDAY, Oct. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Children are more apt to
dislike obese peers and others with an "undesirable trait" if they
believe it's the child's own fault, according to new research.
The study included 137 third- through eighth-grade students who
were asked to respond to statements about six hypothetical boys who
were either a poor student or poor athlete, extremely overweight,
extremely aggressive, extremely shy, or had symptoms of
The Kansas State University researchers presented the
hypothetical boys as real and said the boys had been asked if they
were trying to do anything to fix their undesirable trait and
whether their attempts had been successful.
The students then rated their attitudes towards the boys. The
results showed that the more the students believed the boy was at
fault for his undesirable trait, the more they would tease and make
fun of him, and the less they would help him if he needed it.
Boys who were overweight and aggressive were disliked the most
because the students believed they were to blame for their own
problem and lacked the desire and motivation to change it, the
The researchers also found that girls tended to feel more kindly
than boys toward peers with undesirable traits, unless those traits
were obesity and aggressiveness.
There was some good news.
"If the students think that the child has tried to change, that tends to positively influence how they anticipate interacting with that peer," study author Mark Barnett, a psychology professor, said in a university news release. "They really liked kids who are successful in overcoming their problem, but they also really liked kids who tried and put effort into changing."
The study is slated for publication in an upcoming issue of the
Journal of Genetic Psychology.
The Nemours Foundation outlines how parents can
bully-proof their children.