Cumulative Encouragement to Diet From Adolescence to Adulthood: Longitudinal Associations With Health, Psychosocial Well-Being, and Romantic Relationships

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Purpose: The aim of the study was to identify whether parent encouragement to diet as an adolescent predicts subsequent encouragement to diet from significant others/romantic partners as an adult and examine longitudinal associations between cumulative encouragement to diet from close relationships (i.e., parent and significant other) and later weight, weight-related, and psychosocial well-being outcomes in adulthood. Methods: Data from Project EAT I-IV, a 15-year longitudinal population-based study of socioeconomically and racially/ethnically diverse adolescents followed into adulthood (n = 1,116; mean age = 31.1 years; 61% female), were used for this study. Surveys and anthropometric measures were completed at school by adolescents in 1998–1999, and follow-up mailed and online surveys were completed at approximately 5-year intervals between 2003 and 2016. Results: Adolescents who experienced encouragement to diet from their parents were more likely to have a significant other as an adult who also encouraged them to diet. In addition, there was a significant (p < .05) cumulative effect of encouragement to diet, such that experiencing more encouragement to diet from both a parent(s) and significant other was associated with higher weight status, more unhealthy weight-control behaviors (e.g., dieting, binge eating, and unhealthy weight control behaviors), and lower psychosocial well-being (e.g., lower body satisfaction and self-esteem and higher depressive symptoms) as a young adult. Conclusions: Encouragement to diet tracked from one close relationship to another and had a cumulative effect on adult weight, weight-related, and psychosocial well-being outcomes. Future interventions, clinical work, and research should be aware of these patterns and cumulative effects of encouragement to diet to target key relationships to reduce these harmful interpersonal patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)690-697
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Adolescence
  • Adulthood
  • Diverse sample
  • Encouragement to diet
  • Parents
  • Psychosocial well-being
  • Romantic relationships
  • Unhealthy weight-control behaviors
  • Weight

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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