A new study at the University of Leeds in the UK claims that children as young as four years old do not want an overweight friend.
According to the Daily Mail, the study of 126 boys and girls -- between the ages of four and six -- showed that the majority of kids would rather have a skinny or disabled buddy instead of a fat friend.
The study's author, Professor Andrew Hillm, read boys and girls three versions of a specially-written children’s book. Alfie, the main character, was shown in three stories as being normal weight, overweight or disabled.
According to the children's choices, "fat Alfie" (pictured) was less likely to win a race, get good grades, be happy with his appearance and get invited to social events than "normal-weight Alfie."
The Alfie, who was in a wheelchair, was also marked down like "fat Alfie," but not nearly as low.
Only one of the 43 children who was read the "fat Alfie" version of the book wanted him as a friend.
A female version of the story produced just two children willing to play with "fat Alfina."
The study was presented at European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool.
"This research confirms young children’s awareness of the huge societal interest in body size," said Professor Hill. "It shows that by school entry age, UK children have taken on board the negativity associated with fatness and report its penalties in terms of appearance, school activities and socially."
‘This negativity was shared by another visibly different characterization, a child in a wheelchair, but to a far smaller extent. Children rejected the fat character regardless of whether the character was male or female. Children’s own gender made no difference to their choices. But there was some evidence that older children expressed more negative views."
Professor Hill claims kids are picking up on a prejudice towards obesity from their parents and TV shows.
"I think we have an underlying social commentary about weight and morals and that the morality of people is based on their shape," added Professor Hill. "I think that is very powerful and kids are sensitive to it."
Source: Daily Mail