Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


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Lembeck, P. T. (2015). Adolescent bullying: Do weight, body size, and body size dissatisfaction influence victimization? (Doctoral dissertation). University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychological Studies in Education (School Psychology), Under the Supervision of Professor Susan M. Swearer. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Paige T. Lembeck


The current study investigated how body mass index (BMI) z-score, peer context, and body size dissatisfaction influence bullying victimization in adolescents. Participants were 11-18 year-old patients at pediatrician’s offices in a mid-sized Midwestern city. Path analyses and percentile bootstrapping procedures were employed to investigate the research questions. A zero-inflated Poisson approach was used to examine whether there was an indirect effect between BMI z-score and bullying victimization through perceived difference from friends’ body size and body size dissatisfaction. An alternative model was investigated to determine whether BMI z-score indirectly affected body size dissatisfaction through perceived difference from friends’ body size and bullying victimization. Next, individual paths were tested to investigate moderation effects due to gender. Lastly, exploratory analyses were used to examine potential differential outcomes for adolescents who endorsed weight as a reason for being bullied and for adolescents who endorsed distress associated with their body size. Perceived difference from friends’ body size was not found to significantly predict bullying victimization, but the indirect effect between BMI z-score and bullying victimization through body size dissatisfaction was supported. Gender did not moderate the significant indirect relationship. Weight-based bullying victimization and body size distress were significantly associated with negative weight-related outcomes. This study advances the extant research by utilizing objective height and weight measurements from medical records, by using the empirical definition of bullying victimization, and by considering the role of peers in predicting bullying victimization and weight-related outcomes. Study limitations are discussed along with research and clinical implications. Results demonstrate the need for research that focuses on weight-related consequences of deviating from friends’ body size for adolescents, who are vulnerable to the pressures of their social context and who are at heightened risk for body size dissatisfaction.

Advisor: Susan M. Swearer