Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 7, pp 1373–1384 | Cite as

The Dynamic Relationship between Unhealthy Weight Control and Adolescent Friendships: A Social Network Approach

  • Melissa Simone
  • Emily Long
  • Ginger Lockhart
Empirical Research


Although adolescence marks a vulnerable stage for peer influence on health behavior, little is known about the longitudinal and dynamic relationship between adolescent friendship and weight control. The current study aims to explain these dynamic processes among a sample of 1156 American adolescents in grades 9–11 (48.6% girls, 23.4% European American, 25.2% African American) from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Stochastic actor-oriented models were fit to examine changes in friendship networks and unhealthy weight control across two waves. The findings support a bidirectional relationship where weight control predicts future friendship seeking and friendship seeking predicts future weight control. The findings also indicate that adolescents prefer friends with similar weight control patterns. Taken together, the results of the current study indicate that adolescent friendships play an integral role in the development of unhealthy weight control and thus can be used to identify adolescents at risk and serve as targets within preventive interventions.


Weight control Adolescent friendships Social network analysis Peer interactions Disordered eating 



This study uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), a project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Authors’ Contributions

M.S. conceived the study, participated in its design, interpretation, and drafted the manuscript; E.L. participated in the study design, performed statistical analyses, and helped draft the manuscript; G.L. participated in the study design and coordination, and edited the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study was conducted without funding to the investigators.

Data Sharing Declaration

The datasets analyzed during the current study are not publicly available, but information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website (

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

This study is in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments and was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board at the authors’ institution prior to being conducted.

Informed Consent

No identifiable data were collected by the researchers, as the current research was a secondary data analysis. The original project included informed consent from all parents whose children were included in the study during relevant waves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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