The role of high-quality friendships in female adolescents’ eating pathology and body dissatisfaction

  • Helen Sharpe
  • Ilka Schober
  • Janet Treasure
  • Ulrike Schmidt
Original Article



Peers may serve as risk factors for body dissatisfaction and eating pathology through two possible routes: (1) promoting body dissatisfaction through appearance-related interactions (e.g. weight-teasing); (2) a non-specific social support route whereby poor quality peer relations result in depression and consequently eating pathology. The second route has received little attention and, therefore, was the focus of this study.


A cross-sectional study in which 216 adolescent girls (aged 13–16 years) completed self-report measures of positive and negative friendship qualities, friendship functions, eating pathology, body dissatisfaction and depression.


Those reporting poorer quality friendships tended to show greater eating pathology and greater body dissatisfaction. These associations were reduced to non-significance when covarying depression. There was no evidence that the role of friendships was moderated by the extent to which participants valued close relations.


Low-quality friendships are associated with disordered eating and may be suitable targets for prevention.


Disordered eating Body dissatisfaction Risk factor Friendship Peer 


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Copyright information

© Crown Copyright 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Sharpe
    • 1
  • Ilka Schober
    • 1
  • Janet Treasure
    • 1
  • Ulrike Schmidt
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Eating DisordersInstitute of Psychiatry, King’s College LondonLondonUK

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