Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 205-221

First online:

Gender Differences Among Adolescents in Family, and Peer Influences on Body Dissatisfaction, Weight Loss, and Binge Eating Behaviors

  • Maureen A. VincentAffiliated withDeakin University
  • , Marita P. McCabeAffiliated withDeakin UniversitySchool of Psychology, Deakin University

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The present study examined perceived family and peer influences on body dissatisfaction, weight loss, and binge eating behaviors in adolescents. Three hundred and six girls aged 11 to 17 years (M = 13.66, SD = 1.12) and 297 boys aged 11 to 18 years (M = 13.89, SD = 1.13) completed a questionnaire that examined the direct influence and quality of family and peer relationships on body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Direct influences of family and peers, rather than the quality of these relationships, predicted body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in adolescent boys and girls. Interesting differences were found between girls and boys in the nature of the influences and in the way they were expressed. In particular, parental and peer discussion and encouragement of weight loss predicted disordered eating behaviors in girls, while maternal and peer encouragement predicted binge eating and weight loss behaviors in boys. Fathers played a salient role in the expression of more severe forms of eating problems, while siblings played a small yet significant role in cognitive restraint among girls. The findings highlight gender differences in the importance of significant others in the expression of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in adolescence.