Obese Teens Have Fewer Friends, Especially Whites
Jim LiebeltJim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
- 2012 Jul 26
Obese adolescents tend to have fewer friends at school than their peers, finds a new study in Ethnicity & Disease. However, the impact of obesity on friendships varies by ethnic group, with white students faring worse than black or Hispanic students.
The research team used data drawn from the school-based National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The team’s sample comprised 15,355 adolescents in grades 7 through 12. Each student was asked to list up to five same-sex friends from within school or outside of school. By linking students’ responses, the researchers could determine when students who listed a certain peer as a friend were in turn listed by that peer as a friend. This information was used to assess “social integration.”
“We found that obese adolescents were picked as friends by only 3 schoolmates, compared to the average adolescent who was not obese, who was identified as a friend by 5 schoolmates,” said lead author Solveig Argeseanu Cunningham, Ph.D., of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.
Obese teens did not report having fewer friends than their normal-weight peers. Differences only emerged in whether the friendship was reciprocated. Being obese had the greatest effects on the reciprocity of white teens’ friendships. For non-white teens, especially black girls, being obese did not reduce their number of school friends. One explanation could be the different ideals of beauty among different ethnic groups, with African-American and some Hispanic cultures being more accepting of larger bodies, offered Cunningham.
Source: Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health