The study examined different types of teasing and the resulting effects on body image in men and women. It found that, rather than just being ‘harmless fun’, teasing can often have a long-term detrimental impact on an individuals’ body image.
In particular, men who experience appearance-related teasing as children are more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies in adulthood.
If men had been upset by a weight-related teasing experience, they were more likely to be pre-occupied by their weight. However, in women teasing alone was not enough to predict weight pre-occupation. Weight concerns were most likely due to other societal pressures to be thin.
The research was carried out by masters student Vera Xueni Liang under the supervision of Professor Alun Jackson. Ms Liang says her findings are significant for parents and teachers.
“All too often teasing is dismissed as just part of growing up. However, we know it has the potential to have a long-term negative impact. Parents and educators are responsible for protecting the welfare of children who are vulnerable to teasing, and it’s important they understand exactly what damage it can do.
“Educators also need to tackle teasing as early as possible, to ensure young people have the opportunity to develop a healthy body image,” she says. This is particularly important during the crucial developmental years between late primary school and early secondary school.
“Finally, because males are more likely to perceive teasing as ‘harmless fun’, specific programs should be aimed at educating junior high boys about the possible detrimental effects of teasing, and equipping them with the skills to cope with teasing.”
The report also recommends the development of clear guidelines and policies on teasing and bullying in schools, and the introduction of school-wide interventions that involve the education of teachers, parents and students.