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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
HUSTON, L. Y. (2003). Self-esteem Impacts Obese Children. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 6. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 28, 2023 .

Self-esteem Impacts Obese Children
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
Obesity appears to be a growing problem with children in today’s society. Many reasons support this hypothesis (e.g., social environment, health). The main reason, largely supported by people, is the fact that technology has taken over. Students much rather prefer to stay inside and play on the computer, watch television or play video games (i.e., Playstation, Sega, Nintendo), instead of riding bikes or going outside to play games with other children in the neighborhood. Children that are overweight tend to have a lower self-esteem, more so than those who are at a normal weight. A survey was conducted in order to pass out to children from two categories: normal weight and overweight. The correlational analysis conducted showed a slight significant difference between weight and self-esteem. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how weight impacts a child’s self-esteem.

Obesity in children is a growing problem in the United States. In the 1990’s, an estimated 18 million children younger than five years old were classified as overweight. Worldwide in 2001, 149 million children are malnourished or in technical terms, unhealthy. Two-thirds of these children are in Asia. Malnourished children declined by 17% in various developing countries. Overweight is defined as a body mass index of 25-29 and obesity is a body mass index of 30 and above (Holm, Li, Spector, Hicks, Carlson, Lanuza, 2001). The cause of obesity in children is very debatable. Many people believe that children are overweight because of health or behavioral reasons. Being overweight as a child can cause health problems such as coronary artery disease, colorectal cancer, gout and arthritis. Childhood obesity is the leading cause of pediatric hypertension and diabetes (Sherman, 1992). Studies also show that half of overweight children become overweight adults and children of obese parents may become obese adults (Holm et al. 2001). Many have concluded that with all of the new technology that we have in society, children are no longer playing outside like they used to. In the past children have always wanted to ride their bikes, play tag, and many more outside activities. Now, a large percentage of children sit inside and watch hours of television, play video games, and play on the computer. Forty percent of fewer children reported that they walked or rode their bikes to school in 1995 than in 1977 (Dietz, Bland, Gortmaker, Molloy & Schmid, 2002).Many overweight parents do not recognize their overweight child as overweight or obese. This factor could be that parents do not pay attention to what their children eat or what they feed their child on a daily basis. Children and their families do not have a meal pattern that is followed on a weekly or monthly basis. Most of their food intake deals with snacks and high caloric foods (Sherman, Alexander, Gomez, Kim & Marole 1992). Schools, along with the parents, are at fault for providing nutritional value to children as well. Many schools serve children high sugar and fatty food such as hamburgers, French fries, pizza, fried chicken sandwiches, use butter on vegetables and much more. Many middle schools and high schools have vending and pop machines for adolescents who do not want to eat what is being served. These machines contain various types of candy, chips, cookies and cakes. And even if these machines are in the teachers lounge, students still find a way to get what they want. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity suggests various approaches to change the number of obese children. The plan of action is to require physical education classes, healthier foods in schools and safe recreational equipment (Sibbald, 2002). Australia is one of the first countries to develop a strategy to start serving healthier foods in their school, as well as a paved pathway for bikes, roller blades, walking, et cetera. However, they have not begun to implement this into their system. Overweight children have it very hard in life today. As early as elementary school, obese children are teased and considered as outcast. One woman noticed that in the cafeteria two obese children were sitting by themselves not paying any attention to those around them. The other children would throw food at them and instead of being upset and crying about how they were getting treated, the obese children just picked up the food and ate it (Loewy, 1998). Many cases like this happen all the time. Obese and overweight children are the first to be picked in P.E. whenever it comes to playing games like flag football, tag, kick ball and volleyball. However, when it came to games like Red Rover, the obese child was always picked first, because there was no way someone could get through him or her. Many elementary students who are overweight are affected by which doll they get and are more than likely not going to have a best friend status with other students in the classroom. These children were also the ones who did not have best friends to play dolls with, and never got invited to sleepovers/ parties. They have it so hard that one’s self-esteem plays a major role in their everyday life. Self-esteem is used as a measure of person well-being (Corbin & Corbin). Children are very vulnerable to low self-esteem. Overweight children develop negative self-images, which can continue on into adult years. Low self-esteem can affect aspects of health and behavior such as social adjustment, activity engagement, and goal direction. Studies show that self-esteem and depression fall with in “normal limits” for obese children (Cameron, 1999). Children with low self-esteem try to find many ways to make up for being obese, like academics, wearing baggy clothing, or sticking to themselves and their own kind.Judith Wynn Cameron (1999) did a study that dealt with overweight children and self-esteem. She observed children ages 10 to 15. Fifty-four children were used as a treatment group and 60 were used as the control group. First, they filled out a questionnaire that contained 80 questions to assess their self-esteem. Then with the consent of their parents, these children were enrolled in a 12-week weight loss program. This program monitored their weight, what they ate, planned an exercise program and had support groups for those obese and in the program. Out of the 60 in the control group, six said that they would not participate in the study and five dropped out. There was not really a significant change in one’s BMI at the beginning or the end of the program between either group. However, the biggest change they saw was in one’s self-esteem in the treatment group at the end of the project. The purpose of this study is to find out whether or not weight has an effect on a child’s self-esteem.


In the northwest region of Missouri, a random sample of 21 children from the ages of 10 and 13 years old were used for this study. Their weight was taken into consideration on whether or not to use them in the following categories: normal or overweight. The child’s race and social status was not a determinant on whether or not they have low self-esteem. The random samples of children were found in various places such as shopping malls, food marts, and restaurants.

A pencil and paper test was distributed to a group of children in order to conduct the study on self-esteem in normal and obese children. The pencil and paper test consisted of 28-items that contained questions about school, family and friends and how that child feels about the three categories. Although the participants were given as much time as needed, the test took 10 minutes to administer (See Appendix A).

The researcher walked around the local shopping center, seeking children that fell into the weight category. Children stopping at the various places, with or without parents, were asked to participate in a study about self-esteem. The students were told that the researcher was from a local school around town and was doing a survey that measured self-esteem. The students who agreed to do the test, sat down at a near sitting area and filled out the survey. After the survey was completed, the researcher collected the surveys and thanked the participants for participating in the experiment. The students who were in the mall with parents followed the same procedure, with the exception that permission from the parent was taken into account. If the parents did not want their child to fill out the survey, they were thanked for their time and consideration, and the experimenter continued on with asking participants to fill out the survey.

A Pearson r correlation test was conducted to measure the child’s self-esteem and how much he/she weighed. All variables (e.g., answers to the questions, weight, height and age) were correlated with one another. Findings from the analysis show that out of 28-items, three questions are strongly correlated with weight and the self-esteem of the children.

The purpose of this study was to show that a child’s weight does impact one’s self-esteem. However, the results did not show much support for the hypothesis. Only three questions show some sort of significance between the variables being correlated. This leads to the question of whether or not the survey was conducted correctly or if the questions on the survey were a reliable source in measuring self-esteem. The questions on the survey asked whether or not the child believed that their friend, teacher or family cared about them in many different contexts. Some of these questions, might be irrelevant, in that how one feels at home, could not be the same way one feels at school. Along with that point, a pretest-posttest could have been conducted within the reason that the child’s emotions for that day could have changed as well. A child might not have been happy the day the test was conducted; however, if the experimenter went back the next week and the child is experiencing happier emotions than last week, the outcome of the test would have been completely different. Another aspect of the experiment that could have been changed is the location the study was done in. Children in the mall were more likely to convert their answers according to how their friends answered, as well as the fact that a lot of people were around at that time causing commotion and initiating the need to not fully paying attention to the items on the survey. There are many aspects that could have been changed in conducting this experiment.

Cameron, J. (1999). Self-esteem changes in children enrolled in weight management programs. Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 22, 75-85.

Corbin, W., & Corbin, C. (1997). Self-esteem profiles: a comparison of children above and below national criteria for body fatness. Physical Education, 54, 47-56.

Dietz, W., Bland, M., Gortmaker, S., Molloy, M, & Schmid, T. (2002). Policy tools for the childhood obesity epidemic. Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics. 30, 83-87.

Holm, K., Carlson, E., Hicks, F., Lanuza, D., Li, S., & Spector, N. (2001). Obesity in adults and children: a call for action. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 36, 266-269.

Loewy, M. (1998). Suggestions for working with fat children in the schools. Professional School Counseling, 1, 1-9.

Sherman, J., Alexander, M., Gomez, D., Kim, M., & Marole, P. (1992), Intervention program for obese school children. Journal of Community Health Nursing, 9, 183-190.

Sibbald, B. (2002). Obesity may soon be leading cause of preventable death in US. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 166, 642.


Submitted 4/22/2003 8:43:26 PM
Last Edited 4/22/2003 9:33:06 PM
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