School Environment Perceptions of the Young Women with Anorexia: Biographical Reconstruction

Keywords: anorexia, eating disorders, school environment, school, education, biography, women


Anorexia nervosa is the restrictive eating disorder and women are at the highest risk of its development in their teens. Although existing Western scientific literature provides some information on this condition among schoolers, there is the lack of qualitative descriptions that may shed light on the actual experiences and assumptions about the school environment which get girls with anorexia, who continue their education in school or finished it in non-Western countries. In this paper, to show how girls with anorexia perceive school environment I examine 50 in-depth biographical interviews with women who have been diagnosed with anorexia from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan (aged between 14–25 years old). These interviews were combined with the collection of ego networks, using concentric circles methodology, and analysis of unsolicited online diaries belonging to these girls. The data was harvested in the Summer-Autumn of 2020. First, the data analysis revealed four meanings that anorexia has for women in connection with schooling: anorexia as a distraction from education, anti-stress remedy, hobby, and part of a general perfectionist orientation. Second, the data demonstrated the roles of teachers and classmates in the entire system of social connections that the girls with anorexia have, and their importance for the development of the girls’ views on food and body image. Findings suggest that although schools emphasize perfectionism, academic achievements, and disciplinary culture, the school’s role in the life of girls with anorexia is greatly determined by parental attitudes towards education.


Download data is not yet available.


Adamchuk D.V., Arinushkina A.A., Neustroev S.S. (2020) Satisfaction of Parents of Schoolchildren with Various Aspects of the Food Management System at Schools: Data from Russia. Data in Brief, vol. 31, August, Article no 105725.

Allen K.L., Byrne S.M., Oddy W.H., Crosby R.D. (2013) Early Onset Binge Eating and Purging Eating Disorders: Course and Outcome in a Population-Based Study of Adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, vol. 41, no 7, pp. 1083–1096.

Arcelus J., Mitchell A.J., Wales J., Nielsen S. (2011) Mortality Rates in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa and Other Eating Disorders: A Meta-analysis of 36 Studies. Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 68, no 7, pp. 724–731.

Barratt M.J., Ferris J.A., Lenton S. (2015) Hidden Populations, Online Purposive Sampling, and External Validity: Taking Off the Blindfold. Field Methods, vol. 27, no 1, pp. 3–21.

Bellotti E. (2016) Qualitative Methods and Visualizations in the Study of Friendship Networks. Sociological Research Online, vol. 21, no 2, pp. 198–216.

Berg K.M., Dermot J.H., McSherry J.A., Strange N.E. (2016) Eating Disorders: A Patient-Centered Approach. Boca Raton, FL: CRC.

Bould H., De Stavola B., Lewis G., Micali N. (2018) Do Disordered Eating Behaviours in Girls Vary by School Characteristics? A UK Cohort Study. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 27, no 11, pp. 1473–1481.

Bould H., De Stavola B., Magnusson C., Micali N., Dal H., Evans J., Dalman C., Lewis G. (2016) The Influence of School on Whether Girls Develop Eating Disorders. International Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 45, no 2, pp. 480–488.

Braun V., Clarke V. (2012) Thematic Analysis. APA Handbook of Research Methods in Psychology. Vol. 2: Research Designs: Quantitative, Qualitative, Neuropsychological, and Biological (eds H.M. Cooper, P.M. Camic, D.L. Long, A.T. Panter, D. Rindskopf, K.J. Sher), Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 57–71.

Chen A., Couturier J. (2019) Triggers for Children and Adolescents with Anorexia Nervosa: A Retrospective Chart Review. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 28, no 3, pp. 134–140.

Copeland W.E., Bulik C.M., Zucker N., Wolke D., Lereya S.T., Costello E.J. (2015) Is Childhood Bullying Involvement a Precursor of Eating Disorder Symptoms? A Prospective Analysis. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 48, no 8, pp. 1141–1149.

Cortés-García L., Hoffmann S., Warschburger P., Senra C. (2019) Exploring the Reciprocal Relationships between Adolescents' Perceptions of Parental and Peer Attachment and Disordered Eating: A Multiwave Cross-Lagged Panel Analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 52, no 8, pp. 924–934.

Dahlenburg S.C., Gleaves D.H., Hutchinson A.D. (2019) Anorexia Nervosa and Perfectionism: A Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 52, no 3, pp. 219–229.

Doba K., Nandrino J.-L., Lesne A., Humez C., Pezard L. (2008) Organization of the Narrative Components in Autobiographical Speech of Anorexic Adolescents: A Statistical and Non-Linear Dynamical Analysis. New Ideas in Psychology, vol. 26, no 2, pp. 295–308.

Evans J., Rich E., Davies B., Allwood R. (2005) The Embodiment of Learning: What the Sociology of Education Doesn't Say about "Risk" in Going to School. International Studies in Sociology of Education, vol. 15, no 2, pp. 129–148.

Evans J., Rich E., Holroyd R. (2004) Disordered Eating and Disordered Schooling: What Schools Do to Middle Class Girls. British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 25, no 2, pp. 123–142.

Falstein E.I., Feinstein S.C., Judas I. (1956) Anorexia Nervosa in the Male Child. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, vol. 26, no 4, pp. 751–772.

Galmiche M., Déchelotte P., Lambert G., Tavolacci M.P. (2019) Prevalence of Eating Disorders over the 2000-2018 Period: A Systematic Literature Review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 109, no 5, pp. 1402–1413.

Ghai S. (2021) It's Time to Reimagine Sample Diversity and Retire the WEIRD Dichotomy. Nature Human Behaviour, vol. 5, no 8, pp. 971–972.

Halse C., Honey A., Boughtwood D. (2007) The Paradox of Virtue: (Re)Thinking Deviance, Anorexia and Schooling. Gender and Education, vol. 19, no 2, pp. 219–235.

Jones E.J., Egan S.J., Howell J.A., Hoiles K.J., Mazzucchelli T.G. (2020) An Examination of the Transdiagnostic Cognitive-Behavioural Model of Eating Disorders in Adolescents. Eating Behaviors, vol. 39, December, Article no 101445.

Keshaviah A., Edkins K., Hastings E.R., Krishna M. et al. (2014) Re-Examining Premature Mortality in Anorexia Nervosa: A Meta-Analysis Redux. Comprehensive Psychiatry, vol. 55, no 8, pp. 1773–1784.

Knightsmith P., Sharpe H., Breen O., Treasure J., Schmidt U. (2014) 'My Teacher Saved My Life' Versus "Teachers Don't Have a Clue": An Online Survey of Pupils' Experiences of Eating Disorders. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, vol. 19, no 2, pp. 131–137.

Knightsmith P., Treasure J., Schmidt U. (2014) We Don't Know How to Help: An Online Survey of School Staff. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, vol. 19, no 3, pp. 208–214.

Krafchek J., Kronborg L. (2020) The Social Coping of Academically High-Achieving Females before the Onset of Disordered Eating. Gifted and Talented International, vol. 35, no 2, pp.86–99.

Lie S., Rø Ø., Bang L. (2019) Is Bullying and Teasing Associated with Eating Disorders? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 52, no 5, pp. 497–514.

Liu C., Cox R.B., Washburn I.J., Croff J.M., Crethar H.C. (2017) The Effects of Requiring Parental Consent for Research on Adolescents' Risk Behaviors: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 61, no 1, pp. 45–52.

Maksimov S., Karamnova N., Shalnova S., Drapkina O. (2020) Sociodemographic and Regional Determinants of Dietary Patterns in Russia. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no 1, Article no 328.

Mang L., Ridout N., Dritschel B. (2018) The Influence of Mood and Attitudes towards Eating on Cognitive and Autobiographical Memory Flexibility in Female University Students. Psychiatry Research, vol. 269, November, pp. 444–449.

Mangweth B., Hausmann A., Danzl C., Walch T., Rupp C.I., Biebl W., Hudson J.I., Pope Jr H.G. (2005) Childhood Body-Focused Behaviors and Social Behaviors as Risk Factors of Eating Disorders. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, vol. 74, no 4, pp. 247–253.

Meyer T.A., Gast J. (2008) The Effects of Peer Influence on Disordered Eating Behavior. The Journal of School Nursing, vol. 24, no 1, pp. 36–42.

Mikhaylova O. (2022) Measuring Moral Panic Propagation on the Interpersonal Level: Case of Pro-ana Women Bloggers. Interaction. Interview. Interpretation, vol. 14, no 1, pp. 33–57.

Mikhaylova O., Bochaver A. (2022) Family Environment Hostility as the Missing Element between School Bullying Victimization and Anorexia. Frontiers in Education, vol. 7, May, Article no 880994.

Mikhaylova O., Dokuka S. (2022) Anorexia and Young Womens' Personal Networks: Size, Structure, and Kinship. Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 13, April, Article no 848774.

Ridout N., Matharu M., Sanders E., Wallis D.J. (2015) The Influence of Eating Psychopathology on Autobiographical Memory Specificity and Social Problem-Solving. Psychiatry Research, vol. 228, no 3, pp. 295–303.

Schiele B., Weist M.D., Martinez S., Smith-Millman M., Sander M., Lever N. (2020) Improving School Mental Health Services for Students with Eating Disorders. School Mental Health, vol. 12, no 4, pp. 771–785.

Sharpe H., Schober I., Treasure J., Schmidt U. (2014) The Role of High-Quality Friendships in Female Adolescents' Eating Pathology and Body Dissatisfaction. Eating and Weight Disorders: EWD, vol. 19, no 2, pp. 159–168.

Shpakovskaya L. (2015a) Obrazovatel'nye prityazaniya roditeley kak mekhanizm vosproizvodstva sotsial'nogo neravenstva [The Educational Expectations of Parents: A Mechanism that Reproduces Social Inequality]. The Journal of Social Policy Studies, vol. 13, no 2, pp. 211–224.

Shpakovskaya L. (2015b) How to Be a Good Mother: The Case of Middle Class Mothering in Russia. Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 67, no 10, pp. 1571–1586.

Soban C. (2006) What about the Boys? Addressing Issues of Masculinity within Male Anorexia Nervosa in a Feminist Therapeutic Environment. International Journal of Men's Health, vol. 5, no 3, pp. 251–267.

Sormunen,M., Goranskaya S., Kirilina V., Bykachev K., Tossavainen K. (2018) Home and School Responsibilities for Children's Health Literacy Development: The Views of Finnish and Russian Parents and Teachers. Russian Journal of Communication, vol. 10, no 1, pp. 70–90.

Tapia-Fonllem C., Fraijo-Sing B., Corral-Verdugo V., Garza-Terán G., Moreno-Barahona M. (2020) School Environments and Elementary School Children's Well-Being in Northwestern Mexico. Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 11, March, pp. 1-8.

Waes van S., van den Bossche P. (2019) Around and Around: The Concentric Circles Method as Powerful Tool to Collect Mixed Method Network Data. Mixed Methods Approaches to Social Network Analysis (eds D.E. Froehlich, M. Rehm, B. Rienties), London: Routledge, pp. 159–174.

Westwood H., Lawrence V., Fleming C., Tchanturia K. (2016) Exploration of Friendship Experiences, before and after Illness Onset in Females with Anorexia Nervosa: A Qualitative Study. Plos ONE, vol. 11, no 9, pp. 1–16.

How to Cite
Mikhaylova, Oxana. 2022. “School Environment Perceptions of the Young Women With Anorexia: Biographical Reconstruction”. Voprosy Obrazovaniya / Educational Studies Moscow, no. 4 (December), 208-32.
Research Articles