Do friends share similar body image and eating problems? The role of social networks and peer influences in early adolescence

Behav Res Ther. 2007 Jul;45(7):1557-77. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2006.11.007. Epub 2007 Jan 26.


This study examined the role of friendship networks and peer influences in body image concern, dietary restraint, extreme weight loss behaviours (EWLBs) and binge eating in a large community sample of young adolescent females. Based on girls' self-reported friendship groups, social network analysis was used to identify 173 friendship cliques. Results indicated that clique members shared similar scores on measures of dieting, EWLB and binge eating, but not body image concern. Average clique scores for dieting, EWLB and binge eating, were also correlated significantly with clique averages on measures of perceived peer influence, body mass index and psychological variables. Multiple regression analyses indicated that perceived peer influences in weight-related attitudes and behaviours were predictive of individual girls' level of body image concern, dieting, EWLB use and binge eating. Notably, an individual girl's dieting and EWLB use could be predicted from her friends' respective dieting and EWLB scores. Findings highlight the significance of the peer environment in body image and eating problems during early adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Image*
  • Bulimia / psychology
  • Child
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Peer Group*
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Psychology, Child
  • Social Support
  • Weight Loss