Childrearing

Study Shows That Kids As Young As 4 Don’t Want Non-Skinny Friends

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weight scaleThis just in from the WTF Are We Teaching Our Children files. Blame the media, blame the parents, blame cultural messages but please blame somebody or something. Because there is no reason why children as young as four should be eschewing friends based on their weight.

New York Daily News reports that “Fat prejudice begins at a young age,” suggested by a small study coming out of the University of Leeds in England. Researchers reportedly rounded up 126 kids between the ages of four and seven and read them three different versions of a picture book. The main character, a boy named Alfie, is presented as overweight in one, in a wheelchair in another, and finally as “normal-weight.” What researchers uncovered was nothing promising:

After hearing the story, which featured three children and their cat who gets stuck in a tree, children were asked whether they would “befriend” Alfie. Just one in 43 kids said they would want Alfie as a friend when he was shown as overweight. The group was far more likely to choose Alfie as a friend when he was slim or disabled.

Kids also rated fat Alfie as less likely to win a race, do well in school and get invited to parties.

And it turns out that the fat discrimination stands for both sexes, as just two in 30 children would want overweight “Alfina” — Alfie’s female incarnation, it seems — for a friend either. The lead professor on the study, Professor Andrew Hill, says that children are essentially telling us what we already know — that we have a serious cultural problem with valuing people based on their weight:

“Young kids like this are a social barometer. They are telling us that society is so conscious of body shape that even young children are able to mirror back what we say about obesity,” Hill said, according to the BBC.

“We have a real habit of equating fatness with bad and children are reflecting this back to us. Parents and teachers should be aware of this.”

Weight bias in preschool? Just what we need.

(photo: Freer / Shutterstock)