Although major etiological models highlight the importance of friends in the development of adolescent body image and eating problems, longitudinal research that comprehensively investigates possible direct and mediational relationships between these variables is lacking. Thus, this study aimed to examine prospective interrelationships between perceived friend influence, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating in early adolescent girls, and whether these relationships differed across levels of body mass. A large Australian community sample of female high school students (N = 1,094; Time 1 M age = 12.3 years) completed a battery of self-report questionnaires assessing perceived friend influence, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating at 3 yearly intervals. Height and weight were also measured at each time point. Structural equation modeling was used to investigate two separate models, in which Time 2 body dissatisfaction was hypothesized to mediate the relationship between Time 1 perceived friend influence and Time 3 dieting and bulimic behaviors. No significant direct or indirect pathways were found between friend influence and disordered eating. Unexpectedly, however, body dissatisfaction was found to prospectively predict girls' perception of friend influence. These findings were remarkably similar in both healthy and overweight girls. The findings suggest that friends may be more influential for those adolescents who have higher levels of body image concern, rather than contributing directly to the development of body dissatisfaction. The peer environment represents an important consideration in adolescent prevention and intervention programs.
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology|
|Publication status||Published - Sep 2013|