Children as young as 4 are fattists

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Minx_Kristi's picture
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Children as young as 4 are fattists

How we start being 'fattist' at four: Study finds children would not think of overweight person as a potential friend | Mail Online

Having children yourself, do you think this study is correct? Is it our fault as parents or is it down to society that are kids are judgemental?

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
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I think it is going to depend on the child and how they are raised. If they are surrounded by adults that treat overweight people poorly then, most likely they will treat overweight people poorly themselves. If the adults around them treat overweight people with the same kindness as others, then the child will treat overweight people with kindness.

There is no part of me that believes that my girls would know to treat an overweight person badly. I have seen my girls interact with overweight girls, and they are just excited to have a new friend to play with.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
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Weirdly, I was reading the article and DS came up and said that guys got a big tummy, thats silly. Which is funny cause he has a friend who is about the same size that he loves. When I asked him if he would be friends with that boy he said no, cause he was too big and is mean. Not sure if he was talking fat, or just too old to be friends with though, as he first called him a guy, not a boy.

Aside from that, I actually wonder if there is a genetic element to this prejudice. I wonder how young it actually shows up. My other thought is that these kids are right. The bigger child is more likely to be marginalized and less happy......so......food for thought anyways.

KimPossible's picture
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I think the obesity thing is really difficult and it takes very proactive work from parents to teach children not to stigmatize those who are overweight. Its a really complicated issue when you think about it.

I'm not saying children are naturally nasty to those who are different from them, but as they grow and learn, they can be getting mixed messages. Because we tell them your health and fitness is something you have control over. If you are emphasizing the importance at home of staying healthy, I think its very easy for kids to take note of what they see as 'unhealthy'

Its just like when my kids see someone smoking. I've had my 5 year old say to me "Mom, that guy was SMOKING!"

If parents don't take the time to teach kids that you can get along with people a)regardless of why they might be overweight or b)even if they are overweight because of some poor family choices I could see how many kids might actually be judging them without even knowing it.

And it makes total sense to me that that stigmatization isn't there as much with a disabled child. In reality that is a much easier message to send to kids, because there are no choices involved in that.

Perhaps thats what it is, we are much more likely to teach compassion to children about those who are disabled. We don't teach any sort of compassion to children about those who are overweight, we talk mainly about 'fixing the problem'

KimPossible's picture
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DP

surprise

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I don't know. Don't studies show that infants prefer high pitched voices? Does that mean that babies are prejudiced against males?

I feel like I've read studies where babies prefer faces that are more symmetrical to ones that are less symmetrical. Faces that are symmetrical are generally more beautiful than those that are less symmetrical, I think if I remember this right. Does that mean that babies are prejudiced against ugly people? I don't think that they are.

I'd have to think about this more. I think that in general people have a proclivity towards befriending or embracing beauty.......empathy has to be developed. It is possible that in 4 year olds it isn't developed yet ~ rather than that they HAVE developed a hatred for fat people. I think that its possible that the study is just drawing the wrong conclusion.

ftmom's picture
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"Potter75" wrote:

I don't know. Don't studies show that infants prefer high pitched voices? Does that mean that babies are prejudiced against males?

I feel like I've read studies where babies prefer faces that are more symmetrical to ones that are less symmetrical. Faces that are symmetrical are generally more beautiful than those that are less symmetrical, I think if I remember this right. Does that mean that babies are prejudiced against ugly people? I don't think that they are.

I'd have to think about this more. I think that in general people have a proclivity towards befriending or embracing beauty.......empathy has to be developed. It is possible that in 4 year olds it isn't developed yet ~ rather than that they HAVE developed a hatred for fat people. I think that its possible that the study is just drawing the wrong conclusion.

I think we are thinking along the same lines. My story about DS demonstrated (to me) that although he thought the drawing of the boy looked weird (and why wouldnt it, when has he ever seen a fat illustrated child), IRL one of his closest friends that he has made himself (I am not super close to this boys caregiver) would be illustrated in a similar fashion. So I am very hesitant about these conclusions.

It also makes sense to me that in a biological way we would be drawn more to healthy, athletic people then extremely fat or extremely thin. Healthy people are more likely to aid in the survival of the group.

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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

I think it is going to depend on the child and how they are raised. If they are surrounded by adults that treat overweight people poorly then, most likely they will treat overweight people poorly themselves. If the adults around them treat overweight people with the same kindness as others, then the child will treat overweight people with kindness.

There is no part of me that believes that my girls would know to treat an overweight person badly. I have seen my girls interact with overweight girls, and they are just excited to have a new friend to play with.

I think i agree with Melissa that children aren't necessarily modeling poor behavior towards overweight people. A good portion of my side of the family is overweight and I have pretty much never ever made their weight an issue. My daycare provider is overweight, and I've become great friends with her and the kids know it. I don't sit there and make fun of them or others, or make any snide remarks, whether they are strangers or people we know. I feel i can say with great confidence that i don't treat overweight people poorly.

Yet one day, out of NOWHERE, my daughter who was probably 4 or 5 at the time right out said "You're fat" to my niece. Not in a heated discussion or anything like that. They were just hanging out at the kitchen table with eachother and a few other people. I was not there when she said it but i was told about it afterwards. I was mortified. My niece (who is in her early 20s) just simply said to her afterwards "thats not a nice thing to say".

GloriaInTX's picture
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My kids have commented on someone being fat before when they were little. I think it's just that they don't understand that it is something that is taboo to say. They are not saying it to be mean just as a fact like saying the sky is blue or the grass is green.

SID081108's picture
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We have two very overweight girls (for their age) that live in our culdesac. The adults on my street are so much meaner to them than the kids are. One neighbor actually calls them "the fat girls" (in front of his daughter or whoever else) and doesn't like them playing at his house. My 4-year old loves to play with them (they are in 2nd and 3rd grade) and has never mentioned their weight or how they look, until the other day. They were all in our back yard and I walked out and saw a big hole in our hammock (which was already very old and somewhat starting to fall apart). I asked what happened to the hammock and Sophia said "I think Lauren broke it cause she's big" I told her that wasn't a nice thing to say, and that any of them could have broken it by rough-housing on it....but tried not to make a big deal out of it to further embarrass Lauren.

Anyway, I talked to Sophia about it after the girls left and she genuinely had no concept that calling Lauren "big" would hurt her feelings at all. Like Gloria said, to her it was just a fact like the sky being blue or the grass being green.

It's important to me that my kids know that we try to eat right, exercise, and stay healthy, but that even though being healthy is important, it is harder for some to control their weight than others. These little girls in my neighborhood are constantly playing outside, running, riding bikes, etc. Activity galore. But their parents are both very overweight and I suspect they eat badly in the home. They are almost too young to know how to "control it" themselves with no support from their parents. I feel bad for them, honestly.

Also, I know several people who are very active and healthy, but are heavier than what the general norm would consider a "healthy weight". In my family we focus on overall health rather than weight.

AlyssaEimers's picture
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I agree with Gloria in that making an observation about someone's weight is an innocent observation. Being mean however, or refusing to play with someone solely based on their size, is a learned behavior.

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I disagree. I've seen my young children lie, push and once bite. They did NOT learn that from observing me or their siblings. Many people believe in a sinful nature. Many people believe in animal instinct. As I demonstrated above even newborns have demonstrable preferences. To pin this all on parents is to ignore human nature.

Joined: 04/12/03
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Did I miss where they asked the children why they wouldn't consider the fat kid as a friend?

For me it had nothing to do with weight but all about the smile. The face of the other 2 are identical; the one of the fat kid has a different nose, smile, and chin. Something about that just doesn't feel the same. If asked if he would be someone I would be friends with, I'm not sure what I would say. But a no answer has nothing to do with his size but his face. It just looks odd.

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Oh wow...this makes me think of something that happened in our family. A few years ago, when Nathan was about 6, he came in from the bus in tears. I asked him why he was crying, and he said it was because Matt (8 at the time) yelled at him. Matt said the reason he yelled at him was because he told a boy on the bus that he was fat. Nathan said "well, he is!". Apparently, from what I heard from Matt, Nathan wasn't teasing the boy...just was pretty matter-of-fact. And this boy at the time was about 150-160 lbs at 9 years old. His parents don't let him play outside much at all, so I feel bad for the boy. But it was a good teaching moment - we talked about how everyone has different bodies, and it's what's inside that counts.

AlyssaEimers's picture
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"Potter75" wrote:

I disagree. I've seen my young children lie, push and once bite. They did NOT learn that from observing me or their siblings. Many people believe in a sinful nature. Many people believe in animal instinct. As I demonstrated above even newborns have demonstrable preferences. To pin this all on parents is to ignore human nature.

I do not believe a child would think "Skinny Good, Fat Bad" unless someone taught them that behaviour. That is not to say that kids do not do anything instinctively, but I do not think that this is one of them. For example, in other cultures being big is considered beautiful and a good thing. I believe what we see as beautiful is shaped and learned from our culture.

Top 10 Countries Celebrating Female Obesity

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Yes- I'm sure that if aids is the alternative fat is good. Not sure what the point of your link is. You may need to explain your thought more.

KimPossible's picture
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Well, I do think it's natural for people to gravitate towards like people, and we often resist what is different. Not that it's necessarily okay, but that "undoing" that to any degree is something that needs to be proactively taught. And culturally thinking, we do associate obesity with unhealthy-ness(and i think we should) and maybe that's all it takes to easily influence a child's opinion. Not necessarily deliberate mean behavior by adults.

AlyssaEimers's picture
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My point is that beauty is a learned perceptive. In some cultures what is considered beautiful is being big. In other cultures what is considered beautiful is being thin. In my opinion, that would not be the case if you were born already believing that only being skinny is beautiful.

KimPossible's picture
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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

My point is that beauty is a learned perceptive. In some cultures what is considered beautiful is being big. In other cultures what is considered beautiful is being thin. In my opinion, that would not be the case if you were born already believing that only being skinny is beautiful.

I don't really think its about being beautiful at that age though, i think its more about being different.

AlyssaEimers's picture
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"KimPossible" wrote:

Not necessarily deliberate mean behavior by adults.

I do not think it is deliberate at all by most people. Not many people are going to teach their child "Fat people are bad" outright. That does not mean that it is not taught.

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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

I do not think it is deliberate at all by most people. Not many people are going to teach their child "Fat people are bad" outright. That does not mean that it is not taught.

Well then what did you mean by " If they are surrounded by adults that treat overweight people poorly "

Can you give me an example of what you mean? Because that sounded very deliberate to me.

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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

My point is that beauty is a learned perceptive. In some cultures what is considered beautiful is being big. In other cultures what is considered beautiful is being thin. In my opinion, that would not be the case if you were born already believing that only being skinny is beautiful.

I don't think people are born knowing much but to know but to look for the nipple and the high pitched voice and the pretty face, as studies as shown. Why are you arguing against science?

AlyssaEimers's picture
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I do not believe a child would have a bias toward overweight people if they did not first learn that behavior. I believe the fact that other cultures not having the same outcomes proves that.

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You have not proved that fact.

AlyssaEimers's picture
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"Potter75" wrote:

You have not proved that fact.

Do I have studies, no. Do you have studies that prove that you are born thinking that only skinny people are beautiful? That just does not make sense.

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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

I do not believe a child would have a bias toward overweight people if they did not first learn that behavior. I believe the fact that other cultures not having the same outcomes proves that.

Something interesting about your list....that the obesity rates in women there are even higher than they are here in most of them. Some of those even talk about overweight women being 'the norm'. (100,00 out of 114,000 people are overweight in tonga!)

I think this points more to my suggestion of embracing what is familiar and common place.

Others point to celebrating obesity over more severe health problems (related to starvation or the unavailability of heathy foods) obesity has to look healthier than famine or starvation....which is the other instinct mentioned earlier (attraction to health)

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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

Do I have studies, no. Do you have studies that prove that you are born thinking that only skinny people are beautiful? That just does not make sense.

I can provide evidence tomorrow I am entrenched in a dance party tonight

GloriaInTX's picture
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"Potter75" wrote:

I don't think people are born knowing much but to know but to look for the nipple and the high pitched voice and the pretty face, as studies as shown. Why are you arguing against science?

I guess that is why these women are force feeding themselves to look more beautiful.

Mauritania struggles with love of fat women - Health - Health care - More health news | NBC News

Minx_Kristi's picture
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What I want to know is, when do kids actually realise what 'fat' means? My DD at the age of 3 was made aware by myself that saying 'fat' was not acceptable. I can't remember why, but can only pressume she said it to someone for me to make it an issue with her. She soon learnt that it was acceptable to say it in a different context however, so she would come to me with a smarty pants look on her face and say "cut the fat off the chickennnnn...."
Now, I don't know if she knew at that point what 'fat' actually meant if said to someone who was over weight.

I have realised that now she is in school, she despises the one child in her class who is over weight. I honestly don't think the weight has anything to do with it though. I believe it is because my DD is petite and this child over shadows her.

It can definietly be learned behavior also which I have seen with DD and my nephew who is 7. The other day he said something was 'dumb' and she asked me later on, what it meant. I explained that it meant 'silly' (does it?) and she responded with "you're dumb".

So yes, it can be a case of innocence observing peoples differences OR learnt behaiour from peers/relatives.

xx

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
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I think we are muddling science and sociology if we are using cultural practice to attempt to nullify any ability of a baby to be attracted to certain types of features. Thats just silly. Both things are at play in our lives, our biological predispositions and instincts AND social influences.

The article doesn't even specify that its simply about beauty. That is an assumption being made in this thread. It says in the article that it shows children are aware of our "societal interest in body size"

I think societal interest in body size is reinforced everywhere. Its this idea that its the parents fault that these little kids said they wouldn't befriend the overweight child that i disagree with. Especially at such high rates? Almost all of them said they wouldn't. Thats not these children's specific parents being nasty to overweight people...thats the fact that its ingrained in our culture. What they are inundated with are pictures of skinny or thin people...and we praise high levels of activity, and we don't make overweight characters the heroes of childrens movies...and the magazine ad mom has a size 6 waist....and so on and so forth.

Its pinning this on the parents that I really have a beef with.

ETA: I should say i have a beef with pinning this on the parents because we are assuming they treat overweight people poorly. I do think we could all be more proactive in teaching our children to be more accepting of all people. But those two things are two very different things.

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