Researchers have now found what teenage girls have known for long! A new study says that teenage girls identify with their peer groups when it comes to controlling their own figures and body weight.
According to the study by Dr. Eleanor Mackey from the Children's National Medical Center in Washington DC, and her colleague Dr. Annette La Greca from the University of Miami, weight control behavior is influenced by girls' own definition of normal body weight and their perception of what others consider normal body weight.
Dangerous weight control practices such as excessive dieting and bulimic tendencies often begin in adolescence and can have serious long-term health implications.
Although it is clear that peers can have a major effect on adolescent girls' weight control strategies, exactly how peers exert their influence is to date not well understood.
The researchers aimed to clarify how identifying with a particular peer group influences whether or not girls worry about their weight and how they decide to control it.
To reach their conclusion, the research team tested 236 girls aged between 13 to 18 years old, who completed surveys looking at which peer groups they most identified with, their own concerns about body weight, their perception of their peers' weight concerns and their own weight control behaviors.
The researchers found that there is a complex relationship between peer group affiliation and girls' weight control behavior. In particular, which group girls identified with was often related to how they controlled their weight.
According to the authors, this study shows that girls' own attitudes and their perceptions of peers' weight and appearance norms are pathways through which peer crowd identification may influence weight control behaviors.
The study is published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, a Springer publication.