The Relationship of Dieting to Weight in Adolescents

By Emmons, Lillian | Adolescence, Spring 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Relationship of Dieting to Weight in Adolescents


Emmons, Lillian, Adolescence


INTRODUCTION

By the time adolescents become high school seniors they have weathered the dramatic changes that come with puberty, have had years of experience comparing their body size and shape to that of peers and cultural ideals and, in many cases, have experimented with various measures to bring their body into conformance. This makes dieting and nondieting adolescents at this age desirable subjects for a comparison of actual and preferred weights and the relationship of weight to dieting behavior.

Sensitivity to weight and cultural standards begins at an early age. Lerner and Gellert (1969) found in a study of 45 boys and girls, 5.3 to 6.2 years of age, that they could identify themselves according to body type and rate classmates as under, average or overweight at frequencies greater than chance. Children of elementary school age perceive that being overweight is unattractive and is associated with many negative personality traits, such as being handicapped or disabled (Staffieri, 1972; Gellert, Girgus, & Cohen, 1971; Edelman, 1982; Richardson, Goodman, & Hastorf, 1961). By adolescence these views are firmly entrenched (Feldman, Feldman & Goodman, 1988; Brenner & Hinsdale, 1978).

Being self-conscious about body size and shape is exacerbated at puberty because of the variability in timing of maturational events. Boys begin their growth spurt and develop secondary sexual characteristics as early as 10 1/2 or as late as 16 years of age (Maresch, 1964; Reynolds & Wines, 1961), while girls begin as early as 7 1/2 or as late as 11 1/2 years of age (Tanner, 1972). Because the body is the primary focus of concern at this age, adolescents are very self-conscious about their development (McCandless, 1970; Elkind, 1967) and are more likely to take issue with perceived differences in physical characteristics than with social or intellectual ones (Lerner & Karabenick, 1974).

Most of the research on dieting in adolescents has been done with white, or predominantly white samples (Dwyer, Feldman, & Mayer, 1967; Johnson et al., 1983, 1984, 1989, Nylander, 1971; Rosen & Gross, 1987; Whitaker et al., 1989; Wardle & Marsland, 1990). The research presented here documents the relationship of weight to dieting behavior and conceptions of ideal weight in a large sample of black and white, male and female high school students.

METHOD

A sample of high school students, primarily seniors, was obtained from ten school systems in the Greater Cleveland area. Seventy-two percent of the students enrolled in the schools participated in the study. Students self-identified themselves as 72.3% white, 23.9% black, and 3.8% other racial groups. Only black and white students were retained for the study, a total of 1,269 students.

All students completed a self-administered questionnaire designed for this study to obtain demographic and anthropometric data, information on dieting behavior, and perceptions of ideal body weight. The reliability of data provided by the questionnaires proved satisfactory when checked by semi-structured interviews with 49 of the students.

Certain variables were operationalized so students could be identified as dieters or nondieters. A student was classified as a dieter if she or he reported losing five or more pounds through dieting. Any student not meeting this criterion was classified as a nondieter. More detailed information on the dieting behavior of these students was previously published by Emmons (1992).

Body mass index (BMI) was computed using the height and weight reported by students. Students were divided into four weight groups: underweight (below the 15th percentile), below median weight (15th to 60th percentile), above median weight (50th to 85th percentile), and overweight (85th percentile and over). These weight groups were used to examine the relationship of weight to dieting behavior and preferred weights.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Relationship of Dieting to Weight in Adolescents
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?