Dieting and encouragement to diet by significant others: Associations with disordered eating in young adults

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Purpose. Examine the role of perceived significant other's modeling or encouragement of dieting in young adults' disordered eating behaviors. Design. Online survey data were collected (2008-2009) as part of an ongoing study examining weight and related issues in young people. Setting. Participants were originally recruited as students at middle and high schools in Minnesota (1998-1999). Subjects. One thousand two hundred ninety-four young adults (mean age 25.3, 55% female, 50% white) with significant others. Measures. Participants were asked if their significant other diets or encourages them to diet. Behaviors included unhealthy weight control, extreme weight control, and binge eating. Analysis. General linear models estimated the predicted probability of using each behavior across levels of significant other's dieting or encouraging dieting, stratifying by gender, and adjusting for demographics and body mass index. Results. Perceived dieting and encouragement to diet by significant others were common. Disordered eating behaviors were positively associated with significant other's dieting and encouragement to diet, particularly for females. In models including both perceived dieting and encouragement, encouragement remained significantly associated with disordered eating. For example, women's binge eating was almost doubled if their significant other encouraged dieting "very much" (25.5%) compared to "not at all" (13.6%, p = .015). Conclusion. There is a strong association between disordered eating behaviors and perceived modeling and encouragement to diet by significant others in young adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-377
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Disordered Eating
  • Emerging Adults
  • Prevention Research
  • Romantic Relationship
  • Significant Other
  • Social Influence
  • Young Adults


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