The Emotional Effects of Childhood Obesity

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Childhood obesity is becoming a larger and larger epidemic in the United States. As this problem continues to grow, the physical and emotional tolls of childhood obesity are being explored more and more. Here is a look at some of the impacts that obesity can have on the emotions of a child, and how those effects can have repercussions that echo into adulthood:

Difficulty Playing
One of the main socialization building structures that children have is play. Play teaches children the value of kindness, fairness, and taking turns without the need for adults to explain it. Children who are adequately socialized have an instinctual understanding of the social graces that others may struggle with, which can ultimately give them a happier, more supported teen and adult life. Children who are obese may be socially accepted at first, but they may find it difficult to run, climb, and tunnel through the structures that other children choose for play areas. This puts them at a disadvantage for socialization, because it bars them from a lot of active play. This can create a slippery slope, as they may fear activity and retreat more and more into sedentary events.

Difficulty Thinking Clearly
Social anxiety combined with slow brain function from inadequate nutrition will make it hard for obese children to think clearly and/or logically. Confusion during childhood can create a pattern of overzealous emotions that result in excessive tantrums and a misunderstanding of the world. This may lead to a struggle in school and later with authority figures. It may also lead to an inability to take responsibility or support oneself as a young adult, because of a phenomenon called magical thinking. Magical thinking involves believing that you want or are going to get something without having any sort of plan on how to provide it. Parents who pity or overindulge their kids will keep this magical thinking going until they decide that a child must fend for him or herself.

Poor Self Worth
As a child grows up, if they are on the socially excluded side of things, they will begin to feel as if they are worth less than other people. This creates a situation where it is hard for them to accept good things, and to crave things as bad or low as they believe they are. This can include engaging in abusive relationships, self-sabotaging school or job opportunities, and more. Children with low self image are less successful in school, and later in life. They are more likely to end up in divorce, and the cycle will often continue into the next generation as they impart their low self image onto their children as well. Often, the poor food choices and poor self image will both be imparted, creating a new generation of obese and emotionally struggling children.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "The Emotional Effects of Childhood Obesity," in, March 6, 2016, (accessed August 11, 2022).