Whose Influence Matters: Determinants of Convergence in Body Weight among Adolescent Friends

Elizabeth Vaquera, University of South Florida
Solveig Argeseanu Cunningham, Emory University

Interpersonal contacts are important for well-being, including health and health behaviors such as body weight. Studies suggest a relationship between one’s contacts and weight, but no comparable efforts propose how friendship influences on weight occur. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health we adopt a 3-tier approach that includes characteristics of the individual, those of his/her friend, and their friendship to investigate the following questions: (1) Which personal characteristics are associated with reductions in weight differences between friends? (2) Which friends become more similar in terms of weight over time? And (3) which friendships are more likely to facilitate joint weight change in the friendship? Preliminary findings show that friends weight become more dissimilar over time. Attractiveness and social well-being have the most potential to explain weight differences over time. Social well-being predicts larger differences between friends several years later, while appearance predicts subsequent weight convergence.

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Presented in Poster Session 5