Similarities between eating attitudes among friendship groups in childhood: the moderating role of child anxiety

This study explores the similarities between individual and group eating and weight concerns in 8-11 year old children. It also evaluates whether child anxiety moderates the relationships between individual and group eating and weight concerns. Methods: One hundred and fifty four children aged 8-11 completed questionnaires concerning their friendship groups, their eating and weight concerns, and their levels of anxiety. Results: Children’s own scores on dietary restraint, body dissatisfaction and external eating were significantly correlated with their friendship groups’ scores on dietary restraint. Child anxiety moderated the relationships between group dietary restraint and individual scores on external eating. Group levels of dietary restraint predicted higher levels of external eating in children with moderate or high levels of anxiety. Conclusions: In pre-adolescent children, peer group levels of dietary restraint are related to individual eating and weight concerns. More anxious children may be more susceptible to peer influences on their eating behaviors.