Weight and Friendships in Adolescence: The Additional Complexity of Race, Ethnicity and Gender

Solveig Argeseanu Cunningham, Emory University

Childhood obesity is associated with poorer health, including diabetes and heart disease, and with psycho-social problems, such as exclusion and victimization. Because peers and close friends are important for social and psychological development, we examine whether weight is a criterion in friendship formation among adolescents and whether the effects of weight on friendship differ by race/ethnicity and gender. Using Add Health, we consider several measures of friendship based on both the respondent’s own reports and those of his/her schoolmates, and find a mismatch between own and peer reports. Based on self reports, obese adolescents have at least as many friends as other adolescents. However, based on schoolmates’ reports, we find that obese adolescents are less likely to be selected as friends and are less likely to have their friendships reciprocated. The relationship between weight and friendship varies by race and gender, with obesity increasing friendship among some adolescents.

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Presented in Poster Session 4