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Obesity influences school success

Date:
September 30, 2013
Source:
Social Science Research Center / Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fuer Sozialforschung
Summary:
A study shows that children who are extremely overweight achieve lower math grades and attend German upper secondary school less frequently than their peers. For the first time, it has been proven that obesity, regardless of the student's social background, influences school performance. Previously, it was only known that people with lower education had a tendency to suffer from weight issues.
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Children who are extremely overweight achieve lower math grades and attend German upper secondary school (Gymnasium) less frequently, is shown by a study, undertaken by the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (WZB). For the first time, it has been proved that obesity regardless of the students social background influences school performance. Previously, it was only known that people with lower education had a tendency to suffer from weight issues. In Germany 15 percent of children and young people between the ages of 3 to 17 are overweight, and about 6 percent are obese.

In their study, WZB's researchers Marcel Helbig and Stefanie Jähnen examine how weight and obesity influence grades in mathematics and German in primary school as well as the student's transition to upper secondary school, the gymnasium.

While overweight children do not perform worse in math, obese girls and boys achieve a "good" or "very good" math grade less frequently. The likelihood of getting grade 1 or 2 is 10 or 11 percent points lower compared to children of normal weight. Furthermore, because obese girls are bullied more often, they show lower self-confidence which leads to more behavior problems. For boys no "bully effect" was found. However obese boys also suffer from lower self-confidence, which partly explains the lower math grades. The influence of obesity on math grades is not effected by whether a child is healthy, to what extent they exercise or participate in sports or how much TV they watch.

Obese girls and boys attend upper secondary school (Gymnasium) less frequently. The same effect is reported for overweight boys. Whether lower math grades or other factors cause this outcome has not been fully clarified in the study. Possibly, teachers perceive obese children as less competent and recommend them less frequently for gymnasium, or perhaps parents have lower confidence in those children and send them to a upper secondary school less often.

The study (in German: „Bildungsbenachteiligt durch Übergewicht: Warum adipöse Kinder in der Schule schlechter abschneiden") will be published in the October issue of the journal "Zeitschrift für Soziologie."


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The above story is based on materials provided by Social Science Research Center / Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fuer Sozialforschung. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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Social Science Research Center / Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fuer Sozialforschung. "Obesity influences school success." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930101735.htm>.
Social Science Research Center / Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fuer Sozialforschung. (2013, September 30). Obesity influences school success. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930101735.htm
Social Science Research Center / Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fuer Sozialforschung. "Obesity influences school success." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930101735.htm (accessed May 25, 2015).

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