Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 8, pp 927–939 | Cite as

Body Perceptions, Weight Control Behavior, and Changes in Adolescents’ Psychological Well-Being Over Time: A Longitudinal Examination of Gender

Empirical Research


This study used the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to explore gender differences in the relationship between body perceptions and behavior and changes in adolescents’ psychological well-being over a one-year time period. The sample included 12,814 adolescents (51% girls) aged 11–20 comprised of 68% Non-Hispanic White, 15% African American, 12% Hispanic, and 4% Asian. Perceptions of being larger or more developed generally decreased girls’ psychological well-being over time. Body perceptions and behavior did not significantly influence changes in boys’ psychological well-being over time. Non-Hispanic White girls were the most influenced and Non-Hispanic White boys were the least influenced by body perceptions and behavior. Perceived relative development influenced early adolescent girls, whereas perceptions of being overweight influenced middle to late adolescent girls. Additionally, trying to lose weight influenced middle adolescent boys and girls. These results imply that body perceptions and behavior disadvantage girls’ psychological well-being relative to boys during adolescence.


Gender Body perceptions Depression Self-esteem Psychological well-being 



I would like to thank K. Jill Kiecolt and Allan Horwitz for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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