Attitudes toward body weight and dieting and the relations of these attitudes to psychological adjustment were investigated in 497 randomly selected adolescents who were in their senior year in one urban and two suburban midwestern high schools. Most students reported feeling physically healthy. Two thirds of female adolescents were preoccupied with weight and dieting compared with only a small number (approximately 15%) of male adolescents. Black female adolescents were found to be less weight- and diet-conscious than white female adolescents. Increased weight and dieting concerns were associated with greater body and self-image dissatisfaction, with a depressed mood, and greater overall symptomatic distress in both male and female adolescents. The fairly common fear of being overweight and thoughts about dieting experienced by contemporary female adolescents, in part, seem to reflect the greater aesthetic value that contemporary society places on thinness for women. Overall, the findings suggest that preoccupation with weight and/or dieting concerns in either male or female adolescents are likely to indicate psychological problems.
- Received August 14, 1989.
- Accepted October 12, 1989.
- Copyright © 1990 by the American Academy of Pediatrics