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Relation between body weight and social position in children's classroom friendship network

Anderson, Jeffrey Scott
Scope and Method of Study: The present study focused on the relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) and centrality (degree and global) and the differences in centrality by weight status in first grade children. Participants in the study consisted of 583 first grade children at rural public elementary schools recruited as part of the USDA funded Families and Schools for Health study. UCInet was the social network analysis program used to calculate children's centrality scores.
Findings and Conclusions: The results suggest that obese children (95th percentile or above) were significantly lower in global centrality than normal weight children. Obese children also showed a trend for being lower in degree centrality, compared to normal weight children. Together these findings suggest that BMI and weight status have a negative association with first grade children's social position, in their classroom friendship network. Most importantly, the findings illustrate that even though obese children have some friends (degree centrality), obese children are significantly further away from the center of the network (global centrality), putting obese children at a disadvantage.