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Pubertal Transitions, Perceptions of Being Overweight, and Adolescents' Psychological Maladjustment: Gender and Ethnic Differences

Xiaojia Ge, Glen H. Elder Jr., Mark Regnerus and Christine Cox
Social Psychology Quarterly
Vol. 64, No. 4 (Dec., 2001), pp. 363-375
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3090160
Page Count: 13
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Pubertal Transitions, Perceptions of Being Overweight, and Adolescents' Psychological Maladjustment: Gender and Ethnic Differences
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Abstract

The physical changes of pubertal growth typically initiate a redefinition of self among boys and girls, with an emphasis on body image. This change in self-image entails notable adjustment risks when it involves a perception of being "overweight," including depressed moods, somatic complaints, and lower self-esteem. Substantial support for this proposition was found in data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). As hypothesized, pubertal development and its associated weight gains (identified by BMI) are linked significantly to perceptions of being overweight, particularly among girls. These perceptions increase the risk of depressed moods, somatic complaints, and lower self-esteem among both genders. In a test of this model by racial-ethnic and gender groups, adolescents who claim to be overweight are more likely to be influenced by pubertal growth if they are Anglo- or Hispanic-American girls than boys or African-Americans. Also, a sense of being overweight has more negative effects on Anglo adolescents' emotional health than on that of African- and Hispanic American youths.

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