What drives the association between Weight-Conscious peer groups and disordered eating? Disentangling genetic and environmental selection from pure socialization effects

Shannon M. O'Connor, S. Alexandra Burt, Jessica L. VanHuysse, Kelly L. Klump

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous studies suggest strong associations between exposure to Weight-Conscious peer groups and increased levels of disordered eating. This association has been attributed to socialization effects (i.e., membership leads to disordered eating); however, selection effects (i.e., selecting into peer groups based on genetic and/or environmental predispositions toward disordered eating) could contribute to or even account for these associations. The current study was the first to use a Co-Twin control design to disentangle these types of selection factors from socialization effects. Participants included 610 female twins (ages 8-14) drawn from the Michigan State University Twin Registry. To comprehensively examine a range of eating pathology, several disordered eating attitudes and behaviors (e.g., body dissatisfaction, binge eating) were examined via Self-Report questionnaires. Questionnaires also were used to assess peer group emphasis on body weight and shape. Replicating previous results, significant Individual-Level associations were found between membership in Weight-Conscious peer groups and disordered eating. However, Co-Twin control analyses indicated that these associations were largely due to genetic and/or shared environmental selection factors rather than pure socialization effects. Importantly, results remained unchanged when controlling for pubertal status, suggesting that effects do not vary across developmental stage. Overall, these findings question whether associations between weightconscious peer groups and disordered eating are due entirely to socialization processes. Future studies are needed to identify the specific genetic and/or shared environmental factors that may drive selection into Weight-Conscious peer groups. General Scientific Summary: This study suggests that selection effects may contribute to the association between Weight-Conscious peer groups and increased levels of disordered eating, such that girls with a genetic and/or environmental predisposition for disordered eating may select into peer groups who are more bodyor Weight-Focused.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-368
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Volume125
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016

Keywords

  • Co-Twin control
  • Disordered eating
  • Selection
  • Socialization
  • Weight-Conscious peer groups

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