Bad News, Kids: Body Shaming Starts Early

Body shaming starts too early in life.

It turns out body shaming starts long before it should.

Do you remember when you started to question your body’s appearance? I do. I was about 11, 12 years old when someone in my class started talking about “big” and “little” kids. After that, I became more aware of my body, and that was not a good thing.

Well, it turns out I wasn’t the only child who began paying attention to her weight before hitting puberty.

The study

The journal Child Development recently conducted a study that examined how soon kids are exposed to weight shaming. Brace yourselves… Apparently, the shaming starts in first grade.

That’s right. Kids who are about six, seven, or eight years old are judging each others’ bodies. And you guessed it. Overweight kids bear the brunt of the verbal cruelty.

“The study included 1,164 kids across 29 schools in Oklahoma, and showed that obese children were neglected by peers, while severely obese children were outright rejected and were more likely to show early signs of depression,” Teen Vogue reports.

“Children who are ostracized, as occurred with the severely overweight children in our study, suffer great harm, with feelings of loneliness, depression, and aggression, and these children are more likely to skip school and drop out later,” Amanda W. Harrist, professor of child development at Oklahoma State University and study researcher, adds.

Younger generations have it really bad

Remember how I said I began feeling “body pressure” when I was 11, 12 years old? Kids now have it a lot worse.

A recent Yahoo News survey asked 1,993 American teens and adults, aged 13-64, when they first felt ashamed of their bodies. The group’s average answer was between 13 and 14 years old. But the younger generations are feeling that pressure earlier, apparently.

“In the survey, teens ages 13-17 reported that their first bout of body shame occurred as young as 9 or 10 years old,” Yahoo News reports.

Kids feel body shame via classmates, television, and social media, and one in four Americans said their parents contributed to their body-conscious feelings.

“For the majority (60 percent) of survey respondents, that initial experience of body shame was because someone—most often a classmate or friend—made a comment about their physique,” Yahoo News adds.

“Other triggers included seeing a photo of themselves (30 percent), closely followed by comparing themselves to someone they know and trying on clothes (28 percent each).”

I feel for all the kids growing up in today’s society. Let’s just hope the body positivity campaigns that have gained popularity over the past few years can make a lasting difference and decrease the shame.

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Image of kids playing via Shutterstock

Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.