The Dynamic Relationship between Unhealthy Weight Control and Adolescent Friendships: A Social Network Approach
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.
KeywordsWeight 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.
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 (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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.
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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