The influence of parent's body mass index on peer selection: An experimental approach using virtual reality

Martarelli, Corinna; Borter, Natalie; Bryjova, Jana; Mast, Fred W.; Munsch, Simone (2015). The influence of parent's body mass index on peer selection: An experimental approach using virtual reality. Psychiatry research, 230(1), pp. 5-12. Elsevier 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.05.075

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Relatively little is known about the influence of psychosocial factors, such as familial role modeling and social network on the development and maintenance of childhood obesity. We investigated peer se- lection using an immersive virtual reality environment. In a virtual schoolyard, children were confronted with normal weight and overweight avatars either eating or playing. Fifty-seven children aged 7–13 participated. Interpersonal distance to the avatars, child's BMI, self-perception, eating behavior and parental BMI were assessed. Parental BMI was the strongest predictor for the children's minimal distance to the avatars. Specifically, a higher mothers' BMI was associated with greater interpersonal distance and children approached closer to overweight eating avatars. A higher father's BMI was associated with a lower interpersonal distance to the avatars. These children approached normal weight playing and overweight eating avatar peers closest. The importance of parental BMI for the child's social approach/ avoidance behavior can be explained through social modeling mechanisms. Differential effects of pa- ternal and maternal BMI might be due to gender specific beauty ideals. Interventions to promote social interaction with peer groups could foster weight stabilization or weight loss in children.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Cognitive Psychology, Perception and Methodology
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Personality Psychology, Differential Psychology and Diagnostics

UniBE Contributor:

Martarelli, Corinna, Borter, Natalie, Mast, Fred


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 370 Education








Corinna Martarelli

Date Deposited:

19 Jul 2016 10:06

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:57

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