Peer Influences on Weight-related Behaviors and Attitudes in Adolescence: A Longitudinal Examination of Romantic Partner Effects
During adolescence, both boys and girls confront a period of heightened risk for dissatisfaction with weight and shape and engagement in unhealthy appearance-related behaviors. For many adolescents, this risk coincides with involvement in a range of romantic partnerships. Although a considerable body of empirical work has investigated same-gender peer influences on weight- and shape-related attitudes and behaviors, very little research has examined the role of romantic partners in this socialization process. Derived from social norms and social rewards theories of influence, this study examined several distinct modes through which romantic partners may influence changes in gender-specific behaviors and attitudes over a 6-month period. Participants included 214 (56% female) male and female adolescents ages 16-17 who reported having a romantic partner (of varying seriousness and relationship length) at Time 1. Results from multiple group (by gender) longitudinal path analyses revealed that both boys and girls experienced weight-related influence from a romantic partner. The seriousness and length of a romantic partner relationship moderated some, but not all, influence effects. Findings suggest that romantic relationships are important contexts for changes in adolescents' appearance-related health. Future research should examine romantic partners as contributors to both health-risk and health-promoting behaviors and attitudes.
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