A study from 2005 in the Journal of Adolescent Health reported about appearance-related teasing among middle school age girls. The study was conducted among 372 girls in one school in Tampa Bay, Florida.
First, what did the girls say about how often they are teased? Twenty-three percent of participants in the study reported appearance-related teasing by a parent. 13% were teased by mothers and 29% by siblings, according to the survey.
This teasing was a significant predictor of body dissatisfaction, depression, lowered self-esteem, bulimic behavior, and restricted eating.
Middle school is a time when the average male body is becoming longer and lanky (if it is changing yet at all) and the average girl's body is becoming thickened around the middle. It is this midriff thickening that many girls complain of. And it is just at this time that an insensitively placed comment can ignite an eating disorder. One of my patients once told me she started her diet that became full-fledged anorexia nervosa the day the boy at the locker next to hers called her "Sara Lee."
Doctors, nurses, teachers, coaches, parents, and brothers and sisters need to know that words CAN hurt. Each patient should have the opportunity to discuss any bullying, teasing, harassment or worse that she is experiencing in her environment before a self-destructive response has a chance to flare up.