Objective: This study examined the association of weight concerns with potential risk factors for the development of eating disorders.
Method: A self-report survey was given to 103 elementary (Grades 4 and 5) and 420 middle (Grades 6-8) school students in Arizona and California. Of these, 78 elementary and 333 middle school students provided complete data and were used in the analyses.
Results: In a multivariate stepwise regression analysis, the importance that peers put on weight and eating was most strongly related to weight concerns in the elementary school girls, accounting for 34% of the variance after adjusting for site differences. Trying to look like girls/women on TV and in magazines as well as body mass index (BMI) entered the final model that accounted for 57% of the variance in weight concerns. In middle school, the importance that peers place on weight and eating was also the strongest predictor accounting for 33% of the variance followed by confidence, BMI, trying to look like girls/women on TV and in magazines, and being teased about weight. Together these variables accounted for 55% of the variance.
Discussion: Prevention programs aimed at reducing weight concerns need to address these factors.