Friendship formation and overweight in adolescence


Vaquera, Elizabeth & Argeseanu, Solveig (2008). Friendship formation and overweight in adolescence. 2008 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Obesity in adolescence is increasingly prevalent, with 17.4% of Americans aged 12 19 being obese in 2004. Obesity early in life is of concern because it is associated with poorer physical health, as well as increased risk of obesity and chronic diseases in adulthood. The negative social and psychological ramifications of adolescent obesity may be as damaging as the physical health consequences, and include teasing, systematic discrimination, exclusion and chronic victimization. Friendships are a key part of the social, cognitive, and emotional development of youths. In this study, we examine whether weight is a criterion in friendship formation. There is limited evidence among younger children that obese children are less desired as friends. We explore this phenomenon further in the context of adolescence, testing three hypotheses. First, we examine reports of only best friendships, to test whether obese adolescents are less likely to have a best friend. Second, we examine the number of total friends reported, to test whether obese adolescents report fewer friends. Finally, we examine the number of times adolescents were selected by their schoolmates as friends, to test whether obese adolescents are less likely to be selected by others. Add Health is excellent for this research because it incorporates information both about weight status and friendships. This study will be expanded to explore the mechanisms further, linking friends to determine friendship reciprocity, measuring friendship closeness through activities done together, and tracking friendships over time.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2008 Add Health Users Conference


Vaquera, Elizabeth
Argeseanu, Solveig

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID