Influence of Peers and Friends on Children's and Adolescents' Eating and Activity Behaviors

Published in: Physiology & Behavior, v. 106, no. 3, June 2012, p. 369-378

Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2012

by Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, Kayla de la Haye, Julie C Bowker, Roel CJ Hermans

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Obesity during childhood and adolescence is a growing problem in the United States, Canada, and around the world that leads to significant physical, psychological, and social consequences. Peer experiences have been theoretically and empirically related to the "Big Two" contributors to the obesity epidemic, unhealthy eating and physical inactivity. In this article, we synthesize the empirical literature on the influence of peers and friends on youth's eating and physical activity. Limitations and issues in the theoretical and empirical literatures are also discussed, along with future research directions. In conclusion, we argue that the involvement of children's and adolescents' peer networks in prevention and intervention efforts may be critical for promoting and maintaining positive behavioral health trajectories. However, further theoretical and empirical work is needed to better understand the specific mechanisms underlying the effects of peers on youth's eating and physical activity.

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