Table of Contents:
The purpose of this cumulative dissertation was to make a contribution to the basic research of weight-related teasing by examining biopsychosocial influential factors of weight-related teasing and their effects on general as well as eating disorder psychopathology.
Weight-related teasing is a phenomenon which is widespread among overweight children and adolescents. It is associated with adverse effects on mental health such as body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, depressiveness, and disordered eating behavior. Previous research findings suggest that weight-related teasing has stronger impact on psychopathology than overweight itself, independent of culture. In addition, dimensional self-concept seems to play an essential role in the implementation of the relationship between weight-related teasing and its impact on psychopathology. No further examinations concerning these associations in children and adolescents have been made so far.
For this dissertation a sample of N = 367 pupils, aged 10-14, were recruited school-based and investigated in a cross-sectional design. Socio-demographic variables, weight-related teasing, body dissatisfaction, depressiveness and eating behavior were assessed via questionnaires. In a further data collection with a partial sample (N = 87) weight-related teasing, dimensional self-concept and depressiveness were answered anew via questionnaires. Height and weight were measured by calibrated instruments while the eating disorder psychopathology was assessed via structured interview.
In a first study we examined the influence of migration background on the frequency of weight-related teasing and its effects on depressiveness and eating behavior. It became evident that children and adolescents who were teased frequently because of their weight showed higher levels of body dissatisfaction, depressiveness and eating disorder, independent of migration background. Children and adolescents with or without migration background did not differ in the frequency of weight-related teasing. In addition, weight-related teasing was a more potent predictor for depressiveness and disordered eating behavior than the weight status. Cross-sectional, mediator effects of weight-related teasing on the association between weight and disordered eating behavior could be found.
In a second study we examined the differential effects of weight-related teasing on dimensional self-concept and its effects on depressiveness and the eating disorder psychopathology. It became evident that specific negative associations existed between weight-related teasing and self-concepts of physical appearance and global self-worth. A negative physical appearance self-concept could be identified as a predictor for eating disorder psychopathology but not for depressiveness. Thus, physical appearance self-concept was found to moderate the association between weight-related teasing and eating disorder psychopathology. Accordingly, an unfavorable scholastic competence self-concept was negatively associated with depressiveness but not with eating disorder psychopathology. The present results support the assumption of disorder-specific associations between weight-related teasing, self-concept, and general as well as eating disorder psychopathology.
This dissertation project has made a substantial contribution on the identification of influential factors of weight-related teasing and its psychopathological correlates. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings as risk factors. It can be concluded that weight-related teasing has a strong negative effect on psychopathology, independent of migration background, gender and weight status. Cognitive evaluation processes like dimensional self-concept additionally affect the impact of weight-related teasing on psychopathology. These research findings underline the necessity to consider weight-related teasing and the domains of the dimensional self-concept for the establishment of effective prevention and intervention efforts.