Background: Being the target of peer victimization is frequent among children categorized as overweight and obese and is thought to play a central role in disordered eating behavior development. In accordance with a previous theoretical model, this cross-sectional study aimed to replicate among children the mediating role of weight-related victimization from peers and body dissatisfaction in the association between body mass index (BMI) and children’s disordered eating attitudes and behaviors (CDEAB), while also taking into account the contribution of parents’ disordered eating attitudes and behaviors (PDEAB).
Methods: Participants were 874 children aged between 8 and 12 years old who were recruited in elementary schools. Height and weight were measured and used to calculate BMI. Self-reported questionnaires were used to measure weight-related victimization, body dissatisfaction, CDEAB and PDEAB.
Results: For both girls and boys, a path analysis showed no direct effect of BMI on CDEAB, but a significant indirect effect was found, indicating that weight-related victimization and body dissatisfaction mediated this relationship. In addition, the indirect effect of weight-related victimization and body dissatisfaction remained significant even when controlling for PDEAB.
Conclusion: While weight itself appears to be insufficient to explain CDEAB, weight-related victimization may lead children to see their weight as problematic and develop disordered attitudes and behaviors toward eating. This suggests that weight-related victimization from peers and body dissatisfaction must be taken seriously and that preventive and intervention efforts must be pursued.