Children who are
teased while playing sports tend to have a worse quality of life than their
non-teased peers, a new study suggests.
Some of them may also become less active over
time."Teasing not only influences psychological functioning but may reduce
physical activity and lead to poorer physical, social, and emotional
functioning for children," Chad D. Jensen told Reuters Health in an email.
He led the study at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
The link between teasing and less physical activity is
particularly concerning considering most children are already not exercising as
much as they should.
The effects of
Jensen and his colleagues surveyed 108 kids, aged nine to
12, in 2010 and again in 2011. They asked kids about their participation in 21
different types of physical activity before, during and after school and how
often they had been teased while playing sports or exercising since
The researchers also asked the kids how well they functioned
physically, emotionally, with friends and at school. Together those measures
were used to determine children's health-related quality of life.
Children who were teased reported a worse quality of life
than those who were not. In particular, overweight and obese kids who reported
being teased on the first survey had a poorer quality of life both initially
and again one year later, the researchers write in the Journal of Paediatric
"Negative effects of teasing appear to be persistent,
affecting important outcomes one year after teasing is reported," Jensen
Normal-weight kids who reported being teased on the first
survey were more likely to become less active over the next year.
For overweight and
obese children, teasing reported in year two was linked to less physical
activity the same year."School policy makers are encouraged to think of
this form of peer victimisation as a direct threat to children's health
outcomes," write Jensen and his co-authors."These findings provide support for comprehensive bullying
prevention programs and suggest that efforts to reduce peer victimisation in
the context of physical activity participation may be helpful in promoting
physical activity participation and children's quality of life," Jensen
David Palmiter, a psychologist at Marywood University in
Scranton, Pennsylvania, said the findings are not surprising."Being teased
or being bullied in any kind of an ongoing way itself is a symptom . . . and
worsens symptoms," he said. Kids who are teased "often have
vulnerabilities," such as low self-esteem, before the teasing
starts."Any kid, no matter how healthy they are, can have isolated
instances of bullying," he told Reuters Health.
But a pattern of consistent bullying probably points to
inner pain in the child who is bullied, said Palmite. He said one way to address or prevent repeated teasing is to
increase the size of children's friend circles, so they're not always on the
fringes. That way, "They can travel from class to class with a pack,"
Parents can arrange sleepovers and other activities with
children's peers outside of school and boost their children's confidence by
identifying their areas of strength and making sure they are regularly exposed
to these areas.
In addition, Palmiter stressed the importance of parents
spending one-on-one time with their children, focused entirely on what the
child is doing or saying. He also echoed Jensen's sentiment about the
importance of comprehensive bullying prevention programs."Every school
should have an anti-bullying program," Palmiter said.
(Picture: An upset boy against the wall from Shutterstock