Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Research suggests interventions for pediatric obesity fail because they do not consider the broader social context in which adolescents spend their time: the adolescent friendship network. A critical step to address friendship network barriers to reducing child obesity is understanding contexts that promote friendship network patterns that promote healthy weight (i.e., social inclusion of overweight youth, friendship clusters that are diverse in weight status). This study sought to understand whether community-based summertime programming could facilitate healthier selection patterns for a demographic disproportionately at risk for obesity: low-income girls of color. Participants were 42 African American and Latina adolescent females (M =11.96 years, SD=1.12) enrolled in a community-based summer program for girls focused on healthy lifestyles. At two time points (before and at the end of programming), body mass index, dietary intake, and physical activity were assessed. At the end of the program, the friendship network that emerged during the program was measured. Social network analyses and traditional analyses were used to examine (1) selection patterns that emerged related to obesity and obesogenic behaviors, and (2) whether these selection patterns related to change in obesogenic behaviors over the course of the program. Results suggested that the program may foster social inclusion of overweight youth, but girls still tended to befriend others with similar weight statuses and dietary habits. No evidence was found for the relevance of selection patterns to girls' improvement in obesity risk during the program. That overweight youth were socially included in the context of organized PA suggests promising potential for similar community-based summer programming to provide positive social experiences associated with PA for overweight youth. Future studies should examine complete social networks for longer duration to investigate the potential for community-based summer programming to capitalize on social factors that promote healthy weight among youth.