Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Thompson, J. Kevin.

Keywords

figure ratings, friend influence, comparison, internalization, body dissatisfaction

Abstract

Research has documented the impact of peer influences on adolescents for health risk behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol. However, few studies have done an in-depth investigation of peer-related risk and protective factors affecting body dissatisfaction and disordered eating among adolescent girls. The study sample consisted of 344 adolescent girls from high schools in Pasco County, Florida. Participants completed questionnaires assessing the impact of peers on their weight and appearance attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Participants also identified their close friends (using a coding system) and rated their own figures. Trained research assistants provided objective figure ratings for the participants. The participants completed measures assessing body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, bulimic symptoms and self-esteem (criterion variables).

Results of the analyses indicated that participants were not significantly similar to their nominated friends in the criterion variables. Correlations between peer variables and criterion variables were significant supporting peer-related risk factors. Findings of correlation and regression analyses were inconsistent for the predicted protective factor of friend anti-dieting advice. A significant amount of variance in the criterion variables of body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, bulimic symptoms and self-esteem was predicted by the peer influence variables. Results supported the hypothesis that comparison would serve as a mediator between peer influence and the criterion variables. Internalization and peer suppression of feelings functioned as mediators in the relationship between peer influence and self-esteem, bulimic symptoms and body dissatisfaction. Implications for future research and application of findings in intervention programs are discussed.

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