Childhood Bullying Victimization and Overweight in Young Adulthood: A Cohort Study

Jessie Rose Baldwin, Louise Arseneault, Candice Odgers, Daniel W. Belsky, Timothy Matthews, Antony Paul Ambler, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie Edith Moffitt, Andrea Danese*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
151 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Objective To test whether bullied children have an elevated risk of being overweight in young adulthood and whether this association is: (1) consistent with a dose-response relationship, namely, its strength increases with the chronicity of victimization; (2) consistent across different measures of overweight; (3) specific to bullying and not explained by co-occurring maltreatment; (4) independent of key potential confounders; and (5) consistent with the temporal sequence of bullying preceding overweight. 


Method A representative birth cohort of 2,232 children was followed to age 18 years as part of the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study. Childhood bullying victimization was reported by mothers and children during primary school and early secondary school. At the age-18 follow-up, we assessed a categorical measure of overweight, body mass index, and waist-hip ratio. Indicators of overweight were also collected at ages 10 and 12. Co-twin body mass and birth weight were used to index genetic and fetal liability to overweight, respectively. 


Results Bullied children were more likely to be overweight than non-bullied children at age 18, and this association was (1) strongest in chronically bullied children (odds ratio = 1.69; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.21-2.35); (2) consistent across measures of overweight (body mass index: b = 1.12; 95% CI = 0.37-1.87; waist-hip ratio: b = 1.76; 95% CI = 0.84-2.69); (3) specific to bullying and not explained by co-occurring maltreatment; (4) independent of child socioeconomic status, food insecurity, mental health, and cognition, and pubertal development; and (5) not present at the time of bullying victimization, and independent of childhood weight and genetic and fetal liability. 


Conclusion Childhood bullying victimization predicts overweight in young adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1094-1103
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Volume78
Issue number9
Early online date30 Aug 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016

Keywords

  • bullying
  • early life stress
  • longitudinal study
  • overweight
  • victimization

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