Adolescents' eating, exercise, and weight control behaviors: does peer crowd affiliation play a role?

Eleanor Race Mackey, Annette M La Greca
Journal of Pediatric Psychology 2007, 32 (1): 13-23

OBJECTIVE: To examine the association between peer crowd affiliation (e.g., Jocks, Populars, Burnouts, Brains) and adolescents' eating, exercise, and weight control behaviors. The roles of gender and ethnicity were also examined.

METHOD: Ethnically diverse adolescents (N = 705; 66% girls) completed the Peer Crowd Questionnaire, eating and exercise items from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, and weight control behaviors from the Eating Attitudes Test-12.

RESULTS: Controlling for gender and ethnicity, adolescents affiliating with the Burnouts reported more unhealthful eating and more bulimic behaviors than others; adolescents affiliating with the Brains reported more healthful eating, less unhealthful eating, and more dieting; those affiliating with Jocks and Populars reported engaging in more exercise; and Populars also reported more unhealthful eating. In addition, boys exercised more than girls; girls reported more dieting and bulimic behaviors. Black adolescents reported more unhealthful eating and less dieting than other adolescents.

CONCLUSIONS: Along with gender and ethnicity, peer crowd affiliation is related to adolescents' eating, exercise, and weight control behaviors. Prevention programs should consider adolescent peer crowds in developing health promotion and obesity prevention programs.

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