Sapienza for inclusion: combatting weight-based bullying at school

On October 27, a team of lecturers of the Faculty of Medicine and Psychology in collaboration with the Fondazione per lo studio e la ricerca sull'infanzia e l'adolescenza and the SOS Telefono Azzurro Onlus Association launched the second phase of the project, financed by the Italian Presidenza del Consiglio

The project, financed at the end of 2021, called "Prevenzione e contrasto del bullismo basato sul peso: sport ed esercizio fisico per un intervento multilivello" (Preventing and Combating Weight-Based Bullying: Sport and Exercise for a Multi-Level Intervention) aims to promote inclusion and prevent the victimisation of children due to particular physical conditions such as obesity and underweight.

A pilot phase was implemented in January 2022. The second phase, which is now starting, will involve at least ten secondary schools in Lazio, Italy. The intervention will focus on the link between weight, eating disorders, and peer violence within the school context exacerbated during sports activities.

The actions envisaged are aimed at reducing the phenomenon with multi-level methods, simultaneously in all actors involved: students, parents and teachers. Children who are victims of violence will find a safe space in which to develop strategies to oppose bullying, and teachers will be able to identify tools to combat it that can also be applied after the end of the project.

The activities will also concern parents to help them recognise early signs of victimisation in their children and provide tools to cope with them, but also the peer group, in this case, peers and students, to reduce the so-called "weight bias'".

"The phenomenon we want to counteract stems from "weight bias", i.e. the social preference for perfect, standardised bodies, characterised by thinness for girls and muscularity for boys," says Caterina Lombardo, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Sapienza University. "This social preference inspires negative judgements, marginalisation and outright bullying towards those who do not conform to the stereotypical ideal of beauty. An American study found that very high percentages of young people who go to a specialised weight loss centre report having been victimised and bullied by peers (92%), friends (70%), parents (37%), and teachers (27%)".

Alongside traditional tools, such as information/training meetings, help desk, etc., the project will also use new technologies and online and interactive exchange platforms to reduce weight bias and promote coping and resilience strategies.

All materials (information, videos, etc.) will be available on a specially-made website.

Further Information

Caterina Lombardo 

Department of Psychology

Wednesday, 02 November 2022

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