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U of M study reveals kids exposed to more fat shaming comments on TV than adults

Photo courtesy Flickr user Michael Cramer

In a general sense, children’s television has a reputation for being politically correct, however, a new study reveals television aimed at kids contains just as many, if not more, weight-stigmatizing, or fat shaming, conversations.

The study led by Marla Eisenberg Sc.D., M.P.H., an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, was recently published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Eisenberg analyzed the content of more than 30 episodes of popular kid shows and identified the number of weight-stigmatizing incidents.

In an effort to identify which shows were being most watched by children, Eisenberg and her colleagues Sarah Gollust, Ph.D., and Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., asked 2,793 Minnesota adolescents between sixth and twelfth grade to list their top three favorite TV shows. After identifying the ten most popular programs they randomly selected three episodes from the last seasons and counted each weight-stigmatizing incident.

“The current results reflect a society that is overly critical about body shape and size, particularly for females, even for those of a healthy weight status,” wrote the authors.

According to an article by the New Republic, the proportion of stigmatizing incidents relating to weight was higher in youth-directed shows (58.3 percent) than in shows for general audiences (38.3 percent). Most comments were directed just as often at normal weight women as at overweight women, and male characters were more likely (72.7 percent) to make these comments.

The authors continued, “This stigmatization sends a message to young people that no matter what their weight, their bodies are not good enough. Such a social norm is expected to contribute to body dissatisfaction and associated health problems such as disordered eating and depressive symptoms.”

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