Success in school is elusive for obese students, new research suggests. According to a report published in the International Journal of Obesity, obese students tend to receive lower grades than normal weight students despite having the same comprehension ability as their non-obese peers. Such disparate outcomes in academic success suggests a system of bias against people whom are obese that could affect their long term quality of life.
Dr. MacCann from the University of Sydney in Australia and Dr. Roberts of the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey compared the test scores and grades of overweight, obese and normal weight students pursuing secondary and higher education to learn how weight affects academic performance. To this end, they studied 1419 eight grade, community college and university students from five regions across the US.
MacCann and Roberts needed BMI data for their experiment. They obtained height and weight data from eight grade students via self-reports and information from their parents; community college and university students provided self-reported height and weight data.
The researchers collected a lot of valuable information about student performance including matehmatical and vocabulary skills, and personality traits. With this information, investigators learned some interesting facts about the effects that weight have on students' success in school.
Body weight has a significant impact on how well a person does in school. Despite similar levels of intelligence, obese eighth grade, college and university students systematically received lower grades than their normal weight peers. Based on this evidence, it's not difficult to realize that something isn't right.
MacCann and Roberts concluded that teacher bias and peer pressure could be contributing to obese students poorer grades, i.e. obese students may be reacting to the opinions and attitude of the people around them in such a way as to hinder their own academic performance.
Psychological Effects Of Bias Are Similar To Those Of Bullying
This outcome is similar to that experienced by victims of bullying. Students who are harassed because of their physical appearance, socioeconomic status, etc. may suffer severe damage to their self esteem. Humans are social creatures, group acceptance is crucial to survival not only for the species as a whole but for individuals as well.
Exclusion can lead to feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness which will manifest in lack of ambition and underperformance. As warped as it may sound, some students may even conform to the mentality of the group collective by reshaping their perception of self to include one which says they don't deserve to succeed.
Unfortunately, once a student starts down this path, course correction becomes increasingly difficult. Obese students, like other victims of bullying, need positive support from family members. Feelings of inadequacy can be dispelled by positive reinforcement. In other words, students should be praised for their accomplishments and reminded of their self-worth.
Whenever possible, students should be provided with positive role models whom they can look to for inspiration. When students come to appreciate their value, they will have motivation to succeed in life and will not be negatively affected by the bad attitudes expressed by non compassionate students and teachers.
What Can Be Done?
Parents and other concerned adults can provide encouragement through love and understanding to. Students of all ages must not delve in to self-pity or try to get even with those who harass them because that only brings them down to the level of their oppressors. It's important to remember that human beings are flawed, but that God is eternally good and just. He stands for the oppressed and gives strength and encouragement to those who believe in Him.
Ultimately, regardless of whether they are obese or normal weight, if students have the skills and opportunity, they will be much more likely to live up to their potential. They just need to know that success is attainable. And it is when they are doing right in the eyes of God.
For tips on dealing with bullies, read my article "Bullies: They're Not Just A Schoolyard Problem".
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MacCann, C., & Roberts, R. (2012). Just as smart but not as successful: obese students obtain lower school grades but equivalent test scores to nonobese students International Journal of Obesity DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2012.47
"Bias Contributes To Poor Grades For Obese Students" copyright 2012 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.