Relationships between Obesity, Romantic Involvement, and Sexual Behavior in Adolescents

Kara Joyner, Cornell University
John Cawley, Cornell University
Jeffery Sobal, Cornell University

The role of body weight in affecting a host of fertility-related behaviors, including dating, intercourse, contraceptive use, and pregnancy, has been little studied by demographers. This is surprising given the importance to adolescents of appearance in general and weight in particular. Because of the stigmatization of obesity, we hypothesized that heavier boys and girls are less likely to date and have sex than healthy-weight adolescents. We examined these relationships using two large, nationally representative data sets: the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 Cohort (NLSY97). Overall, our results confirm our prediction that heavier adolescents, especially girls, are less likely to become romantically involved, to date, and to have sex.

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Presented in Session 134: Adolescent Health and Obesity in the U.S.