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24-09-2015 | Uitgave 2/2016

Journal of Behavioral Medicine 2/2016

Perceived size of friends and weight evaluation among low-income adolescents

Journal of Behavioral Medicine > Uitgave 2/2016
Jenna C. Ramirez, Stephanie Milan


Drawing from social comparison theory, we examine how perceptions of friends’ body sizes may influence adolescents’ subjective evaluations of their own body (e.g., how accurate they are in judging their weight, how much body dissatisfaction they feel), particularly for adolescent females. Participants were low-income, minority adolescents (Study 1: N = 194 females, Mean age = 15.4; Study 2: N = 409 males and females; Mean age = 14.9). Adolescents used figure rating scales to indicate their perceived size and that of four of their closest friends and completed several measures of subjective weight evaluation (e.g., weight classification, body dissatisfaction, internalized weight bias). In both studies, how adolescents perceived their body size and the body sizes of their thinnest and heaviest friends were positively correlated. In Study 1, overweight females based on measured BMI were less likely to accurately judge themselves as overweight if they had a close friend they perceived as heavy. In addition, females who viewed themselves as having a larger figure reported more internalized weight bias when they had friends they viewed as relatively thin. Findings from Study 2 suggest that how friends’ bodies are perceived is predictive of subjective weight evaluation measures only for adolescent females. Programs that address negative aspects of social comparison may be important in preventing both obesity and eating disorder symptoms in adolescent females.

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