The Benefits of Reciprocated Friendships for Treatment-seeking Obese Youth

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Objective The current study examined the attributes of the reciprocated friends (RF) of a group of clinically referred obese children and the impact of these friendships on emotional well-being. Methods Classroom visits for 87 obese youth [body mass index (BMI) >95th percentile; 8- to 16-years old) were completed to obtain peer reports of social functioning, including reciprocated friendships, and to identify a demographically similar non-overweight comparison peer (CPO, n = 76). Subsequently, data regarding self-reported emotional well-being were collected from 84 obese children and 74 CPOs. Results Most obese children (68%) had at least one RF in their classroom. RFs were similar socially to CPOs and functioned more adaptively in the peer environment relative to obese children. Among obese youth, having at least one reciprocated friendship moderated the effect of sensitive-isolated behavior on loneliness. Conclusion Friendships may be a source of support for better psychosocial outcomes for obese youth.

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