n Child Abuse Research in South Africa - The perceptions of youths in early adolescence concerning the role obesity plays in bullying

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1562-1383



Obesity has become a global pandemic that not only affects adults, but also children and adolescents. It has been found that obesity among children and adolescents has emotional, social, physical and psychological ramifications, one of which is bullying. Very little has been written on the effects obesity in adolescence has on bullying behaviour in a South African context. For this reason the researchers deemed it necessary to study the perceptions of adolescents with regard to obesity (body shape) and bullying. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 35 early adolescents. The data were assessed through content and interpretative phenomenological analysis. Thus the researchers tried to capture the essence of each individual interview. Several themes emerged from the data analysis, of which the most noteworthy were that youths in early adolescence perceive emotional, psychological, physical and verbal attacks as well as exclusion from peer group activities as forms of bullying. Participants perceived several consequences of bullying manifesting in their peers' behaviour. From the semi-structured interviews a general overview of perpetrators and victims of bullying was obtained. Lastly, a correlation between an early adolescent's body shape and victimisation was noted. The findings give insight into how obese young adolescents are perceived and treated by their peers. Furthermore, the findings elucidate what adolescents perceive as bullying and possible reasons for such behaviour. By identifying perceptions held by adolescents, future research can implement programmes to address these stereotypes, thus decreasing victimisation of obese adolescents.

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