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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Does appearance matter? : school bullying and body-esteem in early adolescence Dittrick, Crystal June


The present study integrates previous research in two distinct but related areas to address the links between physical size/weight, as measured by Body Mass Index (BMI), body-esteem, and peer bullying. Previous research on bullying has shown that being a victim of bullying is associated with lower levels of body-esteem; previous research has also shown that peer teasing, particularly teasing about physical appearance, partially mediates the relationship between BMI and body-esteem. Replicating and extending this research, the present study explored whether peer victimization, like teasing, serves to partially mediate the link between BMI and body-esteem, considering both general bullying and specific forms of bullying as well as bullying targeted directly at physical appearance/weight among both boys and girls in middle school (N = 801). As in prior research, high BMI was associated with poor body-esteem for girls, although for boys both high and low BMI were associated with poor body-esteem for boys (quadratic relation). As well, links between victimization and different aspects of body-esteem were demonstrated, particularly for body-esteem about appearance and weight for girls, and for all types of body-esteem (appearance, weight, and attribution) for boys. Moreover, peer victimization was found to serve as a partial mediator in the relationship between BMI and body-esteem for girls and boys. For girls, verbal victimization and victimization about physical appearance, weight, and body shape served as partial mediators in the relationship between BMI and appearance body-esteem, as well as BMI and weight body-esteem. For boys, a similar meditational role of victimization was demonstrated, but only for those who were above average in weight. Future directions, limitations, strengths, unique contributions, and implications are discussed.

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