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Meal skipping is a relatively common behaviour during adolescence. As peer influence increases during adolescence, friendship groups may play a role in determining eating patterns such as meal skipping. The current study examined cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between perceived friends’ support of healthy eating and breakfast and lunch skipping among adolescents.
Survey of intrapersonal, social and environmental factors that may influence eating patterns at baseline (2004/05) and follow-up (2006/07).
Thirty-seven secondary schools in Victoria, Australia.
Sample of 1785 students aged 12–15 years at baseline.
Adolescents who reported that their friends sometimes or often ate healthy foods with them were less likely (adjusted OR; 95 % CI) to skip breakfast (sometimes: 0·71; 0·57, 0·90; often: 0·54; 0·38, 0·76) or lunch (sometimes: 0·61; 0·41, 0·89; often: 0·59; 0·37, 0·94) at baseline than those who reported their friends never or rarely displayed this behaviour. Although this variable was associated with lunch skipping at follow-up, there was no evidence of an association with breakfast skipping at follow-up. There was no evidence of an association between perceived encouragement of healthy eating, and an inconsistent relationship between perceived discouragement of junk food consumption, and meal skipping.
Friends eating healthy foods together may serve to reduce meal skipping during early adolescence, possibly due to the influence of directly observable behaviour and shared beliefs held by those in the same friendship group. Verbal encouragement or discouragement from friends may be less impactful an influence on meal skipping (than directly observable behaviours) in adolescents.
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