Examining the Role of Weight Status and Individual Attributes on Adolescent Social Relations

Wura Jacobs, Ashley L. Merianos, Matthew Lee Smith, Laura Nabors, Alane Fajayan, Thomas W. Valente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Weight stigmatization during adolescence may compromise the development of social relations important for the development. This study examined the associations between weight status and likelihood of nomination (indegree) for five different social network types—friendship, romantic, admiration, succeed, and popularity. Methods: Data for the study were from 1,110 tenth grade students (aged 11–19 years) from four high schools in one Los Angeles school district in 2010. Multiple Poisson regression analyses using generalized linear model were conducted to examine the relationship between weight status (underweight/normal weight/overweight measured with body mass index calculated from self-reported height and weight) and adolescents' indegree for the five different networks. Results: Obese adolescents were significantly less likely to be nominated as romantic interest (odds ratio [OR]: .29, 95% confidence interval [CI]: .19–42), admired (OR: .80, 95% CI: .65–.97), or popular (OR: .71, 95% CI: .57–.88) compared with their normal weight peers. Overweight adolescents were also less likely to be nominated as a romantic interest (OR: .57, 95% CI: .42–.78) or popular (OR: .67, 95% CI: .53–.84) compared with those who were normal weight. Underweight adolescents were also less likely to be nominated as friends (OR: .76, 95% CI: .60–98), someone admired (OR: .61, 95% CI: .42–.89), likely to succeed (OR: .62, 95% CI: .44–.87), or popular (OR: .40, 95% CI: .25–.64). Conclusions: Our results suggest weight status is associated with being selected by peers into different types of adolescent networks. Underweight, overweight, and obese adolescents are at an increased risk for social isolation because of their weight. This may have a negative impact on their peer relations important for social development, self-esteem, and mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-114
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Volume67
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Obese
  • Overweight
  • Social networks
  • Stigma
  • Underweight
  • Weight status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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