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Body Mass Index, Dieting, Romance, and Sexual Activity in Adolescent Girls: Relationships Over Time


Requests for reprints should be sent to Carolyn Tucker Halpern, Department of Maternal and Child Health, Rosenau Building, CB # 7445, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7445. E-mail:


Romantic relationships constitute an important, but understudied, developmental context for accommodation to pubertal change. Using a nationally representative sample of 5,487 black, white, and Hispanic adolescent females, this study examined associations among body mass index, current romantic involvement, and dieting. For each one point increase in body mass-index (BMI), the probability of having a romantic relationship decreased by 6%. Further, involvement in a nonsexual romantic relationship—but not involvement in a sexual romantic relationship—was associated with a significant increase in the likelihood of dieting. Associations between relationship type and dieting did not vary by age, socioeconomic status, or race, but were stronger at higher BMIs. These findings confirm that weight has implications for romantic involvement, which is highly valued by adolescent girls, and that romantic relationships, in turn, are important contexts in which to consider psychological and behavioral accommodation to the physical changes of puberty.