Obesity and Self Esteem

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Malka Leibowitz
Psychology of Learning
Prof. Davis
Spring 2007

Does childhood obesity affect self-esteem?
Observation: Although childhood obesity may have detrimental consequences for childhood self-esteem, the prevalence and magnitude of this problem is controversial (Strauss 2000). In addition, the social and emotional effects of decreased self-esteem in obese children are unknown (Strauss 2000). Several investigators have suggested that psychosocial functioning may be related to the development and maintenance of obesity (Harris 1983; Harris & Smith 1983; Slochower 1983). Overweight youth are believed to be at a high risk for developing low self-esteem (Israel & Ivanova 2002). Over the past two decades there has been a marked increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children worldwide (Janssen, Craig, Boyce, Pickett 2004).

Over the past few years our societal values have been revolved around being ‘thin'. Displayed on television, in magazines, and on billboards are the ultra thin models, including child models. Those who do not fit into the ‘thin' criteria may feel a decrease in self-esteem as a result of not feeling a sense of belonging in the societal ‘norm'. Childhood obesity has been found to be associated with numerous negative social and psychological ramifications (Janssen, Craig, Boyce, Pickett 2004). Children who are overweight or obese find themselves being a target of bullying, tormenting and teasing. Today, a concern of health professionals is to normalize the social and emotional functioning of obese children. There is limited evidence that suggests that overweight girls report lower general self-esteem than boys (Mendelson & White, 1985). According to the Body Mass Index (BMI) a child who is 20% over the average weight for their age is overweight and a child who is 40% over the average weight for their age is clinically obese.

The present study will examine the general, cognitive, social and physical self-esteem in obese children. The study will be conducted within 4 existing summer camps for boys and girls ages 8-14. All participants will have to meet the BMI criteria. Self-esteem has a tendency to fluctuate (Waschull & Kernis, 1996), therefore subjects will be evaluated eight times over the course of the study in order to evaluate and compare the weight and self esteem fluctations and differences firom the different settings. The first group will be a camp designed for overweight children. There, children will be taught how to change their eating habits and how to feel good about themselves. In addition, there will be nutritional counselors who will advise and acknowlwdge the topics of eating disorders. There will be two different summer camps which are designed for normal weight children; for our purposes "group B" and "group C". Group B will be a regular summer camp program designed for normal weight children, however paticipating obese subjects will attend. In this camp, there will be self-esteem workshops which will be offered to the whole camp including the participants of the study. Group C will be a camp designed for the normal weight children but will not have any workshops on self esteem. This study will examine the self-esteem fluctuation among all participants throughout the 6 weeks of camp. Additionally, the research team will also study them two months before and two months after the summer in order to see them in their usual and regular environments. The study it is predicted to show that obese children in general will have a low self-esteem and that the more overweight a child is, the lower their self-esteem will be. It is also predicted that children in the weight loss camp will leave with a higher self-esteem than when they came in, independently of the "self-esteem training". METHOD

Subjects: Participants will include ninety overweight Caucasian children and thirty normal weight Caucasian children. Thirty obese subjects will be enrolled...
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