Changing Bodies: Weight Management Behaviors among American Adolescents
Jenny Godley, University of Calgary
In the United States, over 40% of adolescent girls report trying to lose weight, while over 30% of adolescent boys report trying to gain weight. This paper examines the national prevalence of weight management behaviors (such as dieting, exercising, and lifting weights) among adolescent girls and boys in the United States. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), I explore gender, race / ethnic and class differences in adolescent weight management behaviors. I then examine the individual-level psychological, developmental, and familial correlates of weight management behaviors. I find that a range of factors contribute to differential rates and types of weight management behaviors across social groups. Additionally, I find that body image misperception predisposes adolescents towards more (and more health threatening) weight management behaviors. Implications for adolescent health behavior campaigns are suggested.