The present study examines the social determinants of eating behavior in children and adolescents. Becoming accepted by one’s peers represents a central developmental task during this age. Accordingly, the aim of the present study was to examine how eating behavior of socially positive or negative evaluated peers is perceived and how children’s consumption of foods is associated with these perceptions. In total, 70 children and adolescents of a German elementary and secondary school were asked to estimate how often their peers consume healthy und unhealthy foods and their own food preferences and eating behavior were assessed. The results indicate that children and adolescents perceived the eating behavior of popular and likeable peers as being significantly healthier as compared to unpopular and unlikable peers. Interestingly, the perceived unhealthy eating behavior of popular and likeable peers was related to the food preferences and eating behavior of the children and adolescents. Specifically, children and adolescents showed less preference for healthy foods and consumed more often unhealthy foods, the more they believed that popular and likeable peers consumed unhealthy foods. This effect was most pronounced for popular peers. Possible reasons for the relationship of peers’ popularity and likeability with the eating behavior of children and adolescents are discussed.
Keywords: Ernährung, Nahrungsmittelpräferenz, Kinder, Peers, Freunde, soziales Image, Popularität
Resources: KOPS Uni Konstanz