Children’s education related to a healthy life-style is an important part of education, which serves
as prevention against diseases, which arise as result of excess weight or obesity. The decrease in natural
and vigorous physical activity and increase in inappropriate diet are mentioned in several studies
(Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive, 2008; Kodat, Sobota, Kebza,
Biganovský & Amortová, 2006; WHO, 2011) as causes for the subsequent increase in many diseases like
juvenile diabetes, stroke, and cancer. Research in this area have postulated other determinants in
connection with children’s weight increase and decrease of physical activity, which include parents’ level
of education and job, type and locality of child’s home, safety of environment, actual health status and
level of physical fitness (Arredondo, Elder, Avala, Campbell, Baquero, & Duerksen, 2006; Kuo,
Voorhees, Haythornthwaite, & Young, 2007; Resnick, Bishop, O´Connel, Hugo, Timm, Ozonoff, &
The problems of increased weight and obesity on children’s psychosocial health has been gaining
importance in the last few years. Specialists have highlighted the connection between excess weight and
obesity, low physical fitness and consequent problems with social acceptance among peers (Zeller,
Reiter-Purtill, & Ramey, 2008; Biddle & Asare, 2011). Interaction with peers is an important factor
related to the adoption of important social skills (cooperation, positive rivalry, understanding social rules
of social-group). There is research that indicates that the level of motor skills correlate with the ability of
adaptation and social competencies (Arbesman, Bazyk, Nochajski, 2013; Diamont, 2007; Cho, Ji, Chung,
Kim, & Joung, 2014). Obese children have been found to have low levels of mastered motor skills, and
are, hence, rejected by peers (Brown, Pearson, Braithwaite, et al., 2013; Matějček, 2004).
The inability to successfully participate on common physical tasks consequently negatively affects
the process of adaptation in school-class competencies (Schulz & Northridge, 2004; Pica, 2004). The
deficit in this area can cause the gradual decrease of the child’s activity and further retard social and
emotional development. All this is consequently affects the child’s level of peer acceptance in
school/class (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011; Smith et al., 2013; American Occupational Therapy Association,
2014). Problems of social acceptancehave a negative impact on the child’s self-confidence, level of
working capacity, ability to make friends and so on. Problems mentioned in literature include increased
risk of depression, social rejection by peers, lower social participation or psychosomatic troubles
(Griffiths, Parsons, & Hill, 2010; Barnett, O’Loughlin, Gauvin, Paradis & Hanley, 2006; Oliver,
Schofield, & Kolt, 2007; Kornilaki, 2014). Researchers have identified found relationships between the
child’s cognitive skills, academic achievements and physical activity (Efrat, 2011; Smith, Hoza, Linnea,
McQuade, Tom, & Vaughn, 2013).
The process of individual adaptation and adaptive behaviour is connected to some personal
characteristics of individuals such as self-concept, anxiety level of frustration and emotional stability. The
child’s communicative skills, intellect and autoregulation are also mentioned as relating to the child’s
adaptation processes(Altermatt, Pomerantz, Ruble, Frey & Greulich, 2002; Homer & Tamis-LeMonda,
2005; Wild & Möller, 2009; Jenni, Chaouc, Caflisch & Rousson, 2013).
Increased body weight (excess weight or obesity) of children can have a detrimental effect on their
social development resulting in problems in interpersonal relationships, inclusion in social groups and so
on. Among the negative effects as identified by specialists in this area are low self-confidence and self-
concept. This research is therefore aimed at analysing the relationship between the child’s weight and
self-concept. It is assumed that over-weight and obese pupils will displaya lower level of self-concept
than pupils with normal weight status. Another purpose of this study is to examine the relationship
between girls’ and boys’ self-concept. An examination of the effect of increased weight on children’s
self-concept and adaptability in school-classes could help to explain some documented behavioural
changes in population (Efrat, 2011; Smith, Hoza, Linnea, McQuade, Tom, & Vaughn, 2013).
In line with the discussion, the research questions will attempt to identify:
3.1 a relationship between the level of self-concept and increased weight in children from lower
levels of primary schools.
3.2 any differences in level of self-concept between genders.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to identify differences in self-concept between children with normal
weight status and children classified as over-weight or obese from the paediatric perspective. Another aim
is identifypossible differences in self-concept in the context of gender.
The research sample comprised 300 pupils from lower levels of primary schools (151 girls, 149
boys) from one region in the Czech Republic. The average age of the sample was 9.90±1.03 years (girls
9.67±1.00, boys 9.71±1.05). The height, weight and body mass index (BMI) of the sample was assessed
according to international norms (Cole, Belilizzi, Flegal, Dietz, 2000), and the age and gender was taken
into account. Based on this data, 3 sub-sets were created: 1st sub-set with low weight status, 2nd sub-set
was normal weight status and 3rd sub-set was over-weight and obese (see Table
sample was physically or mentally handicapped. The table below shows that only 6% of children were
classified as obese or over-weight. Low weight status was found only in 16% of children.
The level of self-concept was measured using the Piers-Harris Children´s Self-Concept Scale 2
questionnaire (Piers, Harris, & Herzberg, 2009). The scores converted according to T-scores. Based on
T-scores, the sample was classified into categories: Category I = above average range (≥56T), Category II
= average range (40–55T) and Category III = low range (≤39T). If very poor scores (≤29T) were detected,
it was presumed that the child has a diagnosable psychic disorder (Table
examination by a
specialist/doctor was recommended. This group was categorised as Category IV.
This research was conducted between May to June 2017 in primary schools in one region in the
Czech Republic. Before the research commenced, the agreement of Ethical Committee of Pedagogical
Faculty, Palacky University in Olomouc (N 03/17) was obtained. As the children were very young,
written agreement of children’s legal representatives was necessary. All persons connected with the
research were introduced to the research aims before the research started. All queries were answered.
Anonymity of collected data was declared in written form according to Czech Republic legislation. The
participation in the research was voluntary, without reward and no benefits for participants. The
participants could leave or stop their participation in the research. Data were collected as a part of the
Basic statistical data about research sample as in number of girls and boys; average age; categories
of BMI) were expressed by average number, standard derivation number and frequency of persons in
The relationship between self-concept and sample’s BMI category was found by χ2. For gender
differences in self-concept according to BMI category, the Mann Whitney test was used. The level of
significant importance was established as p<0.05. The data were processed using STATISTICA, version
12.0 software (StatSoft).
The excess weight (over-weight and obesity) group did not display a high level of self-concept.
The majority of the sample 78.95% (36.84% girls; 42.11% boys)were found in the high T-score self-
concept category. Only 15.79% of the excess weight children (15.79% girls; 0% boys)
self-concept range. There was only 5.26 % boys (no girls)withlow self-concept score from this sub-set.
The majority of children in this sample (68.97%) who were in Category II = high self-concept (30.60%
girls; 38.36% boys)were of the normal weight category. 21.98% of the children (14.22% girls; 7.76%
boys) were in the lowself-concept range. Only 3.45% (0.86 % girls, 2.59 % boys) displayed a high level
of self-concept. There was a fairly high representation of children (5.60%) with normal weight in
Category IV. = very poor level of self-concept (3.02% girls; 2.59% boys). However,the children with
low self-concept were not found in the low weight group. Those children showed an above average range
(77.55 %), and the results were the same for boys and girls (38.78 %). Low self-concept was found in this
group in 20.41 % of children, also with the same results for boys and girls (10.20 %). Only one girl from
the low weight category had a high level of self-concept (2%) (see Table
In terms of gender, the Mann Whitney U test confirmed the premise that BMI of girls
(Mdn=151) and boys (Mdn=149) in early school age is similar (U=10590.50; p=0.63). Gender differences
were, however, found in the level of self-concept (U=9492.50; p=0.02). Based on statistics, there was no
relationship between children’s weight and self-concept (χ2 = 5.87 df = 3 p = 0.12). In early school age,
research has shown that overweight or obese children could have similar results as their normal weight
peers and they can also have better cognitive skills (Li, Dai, Jackson a Zhang, 2008; Wake et al., 2013;
Pearce, Scalzia, Lynchac & Smithers, 2016). Similar results in this age category were also found by
Strauss (2000), who however, highlights evidence of decreasing self-concept in obese children as they
grow older. Those children more often smoke and drink alcohol excessively. Other research confirms that
this problem increases with age. Serassuelo, Cavazzotto, Paludo, Zambrin and Simões (2014) used the
same research tool (Piers-Harris Children´s Self-Concept Scale 2) to examine children’s self-concept and
obesity and they confirmed the relationship between obesity and self-concept in monitored persons. Some
authors (Griffiths, Parsons, & Hill, 2010; Ahn & Fedewa, 2011) found a higher probability of
misbehaviour in interpersonal relationships with peers in five-year-old obese boys. Based on this, authors
propose that negative effects of higher body weight in socio-emotional areas should be examined
separately in overweight and obese children and those who are not.
The negative effects of excess weight and obesity are serious in children’s psychosocial
development. Although such negative effects are not apparent in young children, they are certainly shown
in older age categories (Gest, 1997; Pichler, 2008; WHO, 2011). Compulsory school attendance can play
a vital role in the development of children’s self-concept. WHO (2011) recommends 60 minutes of
physical activity per day for children, covered in physical education classes, active transportation to
school, supplementary organized physical activities, and so on. The positive effect of quality physical
education has been confirmed in many studies (Jansen, Raat, van Zwanenburg, Reuvers, van Walsem &
Brug, 2008; Kubesch, Walk, Spitzer, Kammer, Lainburg, Heim, R. et al., 2009; Kriemler et al., 2010;
Guinhouya, Lemdani, Vilhelm, Hubert, Apete, & Durocher, 2009; Physical Activity and Physical
Education in California Schools, 2009). This research was limited by a low sample number and constraint
in location. Hence a low number of pupils were monitored in terms of pediatric overweight and obesity.
Early recognition of and response to this problem should be the aim of prevention realized in institutions
like schools and/or health facilities. Psychosocial risks of increased weight (especially obesity) in children
are high and because of that, it is necessary that
further research be conducted on this age group to
and support creation of preventive and intervention programs.
The cooperation of the parents who permitted the participation of their children in the study as
well as the management and teachers of the primary schools are gratefully acknowledged for the
realization of this research.
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18 December 2019
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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, family psychology, child psychology, developmental psychology
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Miklánková, L. (2019). Primary School Pupils’ Self-Concept In The Context Of Their Body Mass Index. In Z. Bekirogullari, M. Y. Minas, & R. X. Thambusamy (Eds.), Cognitive - Social, and Behavioural Sciences - icCSBs 2017, October, vol 32. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 68-75). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2017.11.7