Childhood Obesity and Its Affects on Self-Esteem, Learning and Development
Childhood obesity has reached alarming proportions in developed nations of the world and its prevalence is continuously rising from 1971. In the Scandinavian countries, childhood obesity is less than compared to the Mediterranean countries; yet, the amount of obese children is increasing in both cases. Even though the highest rates of childhood obesity have been seen in developed countries, and at the same time, obesity is increasing in developing countries as well. Childhood obesity is at increased levels in the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe as well. As an example, in 1998, The World Health Organization project assessing of cardiovascular diseases had showed that Iran was one among the seven countries, which had the highest rates of childhood obesity. (Dehghan; Akhtar-Danesh; Merchant, 2005, p. 1485)
In UK, observations state that there has been a noticeable enhancement in obesity levels, and now among girls, one in five children who were of 9-year of age and one in three children who were of 11 years of age are overweight. There was also the collection of data regarding the measurements of the skin fold levels at the triceps. Considering that there has been an enhancement in the body mass index, these measures were not greatly higher than those expected from the standards of 1975. The explanation was that the 1975 standards were focused on overweight children. (Rudolf; Sahota; Barth; Walker, 2001, p. 1094) Thus there is an increase in body mass index, but no clear facts are available regarding other measures. Thus it may be advisable to take body mass index as an indicator of obesity.
There are many reasons behind the increase in weight, but the basic reason is that the energy input is more than the energy output. Even for children it is the same. All our energy input is in the form of food. There have been quite a few studies, which show that, on average, obese children do not consume more calories in a major way than their other thin children. At the same time, energy output includes the basal metabolic rate and the thermal effect relating to food and activity levels. The thermal effect of food consists of the energy needed to absorb and digest food. Among all the variables, which have an effect on energy consumption, activity is the one, which is the most less affected by genetic inheritance and is hence the one which is most susceptible towards change. When one measures calories and food, it has been seen that 3,500 calories is equal to 1 lb. This makes sure that an excess intake of about 50 to 100 calories daily would lead to a 5-10 lb weight gain during one year. (Moran, 1999, p. 74)
In order to understand the effects of obesity, a study was conducted for 8 years while the children grew up from 4 years to 12 years and the study was among 15% of the total population of the area. The sample that were chronically obese was seen to be around 15% and this number was about three times the generally expected number from the latest of the CDC measures, and the study was conducted in 2003. The population was of white rural youth. There were also changes in obesity among other sections of the population and a group of 7% became obese while passing through primary school age. At the same time, another group of 5% who had been obese earlier became normal during this period. The other interesting point is that chronic obesity is far more prevalent among the poor and less educated families. This probably has some implications with regard to mental health. There are many new methods for the study of data and there has to be development of mental health situations before any firm comments are made. (Jane Costello; Mustillo; Worthman; Erkanli; Keeler; Angold; 2003, p. 858) Only after complete studies are made should there be any final comments on the subject.
Thus Obesity is a feature that exists in all parts of the world and is only related to dietary habits. It is not related to any specific country or any specific method of preparing food, but depends on the relationship to food consumed and physical exercise done. Many parents would prefer to blame their youngster's obesity on medical problems like thyroid, but less than 1% of obese children have a hormonal imbalance or any other medical condition. While there is no proper explanation for obesity, genetics, poor nutrition, bad eating habits and lack of exercise are the likely reasons. (Weight can Damage Self-Esteem) These problems can only be removed through continuous efforts to change habits, which have led to obesity in the first place.
Child obesity and low self-esteem and other psychological and behavioral problems
One of the primary effects of obesity is low self-esteem. This relationship has not been studied using a considerable amount of empirical evaluation making use of strong research methodologies. Thus, it is not fully clear as to whether self-esteem is always linked with obesity, or whether the relationship is total or only related to physical appearance. The variance of the relationship due to demographic variables like age, gender or race or ethnicity, and due to weight variations during the period of weight loss treatment programs is also not clear. (French; Story; Perry, p. 479) Every case of obesity is a research on body image and should examine several outlooks of a child's feelings regarding their physical self. These include the child's overall total satisfaction with that of their body, or their views about various parts of the body. In sum total, researchers have to look at the particular issue of thinness vs. that of fatness, and satisfaction with the shape and figure of one's body affecting self-esteem. (Abell, Steven C; Richards, Maryse H. 1996, p. 61) Children are also individuals and have their own personal opinions and this has to be looked into.
In a study conducted by Pierce and Wardley, low self-esteem was found among children who believed that they are responsible for their overweight as compared to others who attributed their overweight to an external reason. Low self-esteem was also discovered among children who viewed that their high weight harms their social interaction. These provide some significance to the general view that the overweight child is vulnerable to have low self-esteem. (Pierce; Wardle, 1997, p. 645) At the same time there are gender variations in levels of general self-esteem and age variations in physical self-esteem. Girls who were greatly overweight showed even low levels of physical self-esteem in comparison to girls who were more or less moderately overweight. On the other hand, for boys, the opposite feelings are seen. (Strauss, 2002, p. 424)
Some of the problems come from our social systems and behaviors, and that is why some experts like to work with children who are below the age of 7. The reason for this is that age the child grows, the dietary and sedentary habits of the child becomes more and more difficult to change as they get built in. Changes in these habits also have psychosocial factors on the child. The undue focus of the family is on the child's weight, and the children perceive their visits to the doctor for an occasion to be scolded. According to studies, 30% of girls and 24.7% of boys had reported being teased by their peers. On top of this, 28.7% of girls and 16.1% of boys informed being teased by family members. The effect of the teasing by family members was probably worse than the effects of teasing by other boys or girls. Teasing about body weight is connected with feelings of low levels of body satisfaction, reduced self-esteem, high levels of depressive signals, and suicidal tendency and attempts of suicide, even after controls have been developed for body weight. These feelings are the same for both boys and girls, and also for racial and ethnic groups. The main reason that kids become overweight is due to our society structure. Our recreation and transportation is sedentary. Cooking at home is disappearing, and the trend is to eat fast foods full of fat in high amounts. It seems that our society is designed to promote obesity. (Moran, 2003, p. 22)
The problems of children are not constant but keep developing over a period of time. In a particular case, researchers collected data from over 1,500 white, black, and Hispanic children of 10 years of age and followed up with collection of data for four years. The data showed that self-esteem was not different between obese and normal children in a major way at the beginning that is at 10 years of age. But when the children became 14 years old, low self-esteem was noted among obese boys and girls belonging to all races. There are also racial differences and the effect of obesity on self-esteem in white and Hispanic girls was rapidly higher than it…
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