Gender differences in the relationships between bullying at school and unhealthy eating and shape-related attitudes and behaviours

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Background. Previous research has found links between being a victim of bullying and reporting more unhealthy eating behaviours and cognitions, particularly in girls. However, little is known about the factors that might mediate these relationships.
Aim. The present study compared the relationships between bullying, emotional adjustment, restrained eating, and body dissatisfaction in adolescent boys and girls.
Sample/method. Self-report data were collected from a sample of 11- to 14-year-olds (N= 376) on experiences of bullying, emotional symptoms, and unhealthy eating and shape-related attitudes and behaviours.
Results. Bullying, emotional symptoms, restrained eating, and body dissatisfaction were all correlated. Emotional symptoms were found to significantly mediate the relationships between verbal bullying with body dissatisfaction in girls but not in boys.
Conclusions. Findings suggest that the experience of being verbally bullied places adolescent girls at risk of developing emotional problems which can then lead to body dissatisfaction. Longitudinal research is necessary to disentangle these pathways in more detail to facilitate the development of informed interventions to support children who are being bullied.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-420
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date7 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


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