Educational Discrimination

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Multiple forms of weight discrimination occur in educational settings. Antifat attitudes have been demonstrated in preschool children (35), which likely sets the stage for later peer rejection and teasing. These types of negative attitudes are shown in studies in which obese children are rated as the least desirable friends by their peers when compared to photos of children varying in weight and physical disabilities (36). Indeed, peers appear to be the primary proponents of weight-related teasing, and the school seems to be the most frequent location where overweight children are harassed (37). Unfortunately, the shame surrounding obesity is also evident in overweight children themselves, who blame their weight as the reason for why they have few friends and are excluded by peers, and who believe that they would stop being teased and humiliated if they could lose weight (38). Any professional who asks obese patients about these experiences will hear wrenching stories of ridicule and humiliation.

Beyond peer harassment at school, educational discrimination appears to be a reality at the college level. © There are cases of obese students being dismissed from college on the basis of weight despite good academic performance (39). Research shows that obese students receive poorer evaluations and lower college acceptances than average-weight students with comparable application rates and school performance (40). Some studies even suggest that parental biases may result in poorer educational outcomes for obese students. Studies by Crandall (41,42) have demonstrated a relationship between BMI and financial support for education, where parents were found to give more financial support to their average-weight children than to overweight children, who relied more on financial aid. These differences persisted even after controlling for income, family size, ethnicity, and education, and it appeared that politically conservative attitudes of parents predicted who gave parental support. These results have led to further research by Crandall and colleagues proposing that particular ideological beliefs are at the core of weight prejudice, as discussed below.

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