Disordered eating and disordered schooling: what schools do to middle class girls

John Evans, Emma Rich, Rachel Holroyd

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116 Citations (SciVal)


This paper focuses upon relationships barely explored in the sociology of education either in the UK or elsewhere that lie between the practices and processes of formal education and the aetiology (the 'causations') and development of eating disorders, specifically, anorexia nervosa (AN) in young women and girls. In so doing, it also touches on other relationships relatively under explored in the sociology of education, between formal education and 'the middle class'. Our analyses point to the ways in which social trends outside schools relating to 'the body' and health generate and intersect with what we refer to as performance and perfection codes following Bernstein (2000) and Evans and Davies (2004). These create conditions of school work that, while increasingly difficult for many students, may be deeply damaging to the identities and health of the vulnerable few, especially if they coincide with other problematic features of their lives. Our request, as articulated through the voices of the young people in our study, is for greater understanding of the ways in which formal education and schooling may be implicated in the production of disordered eating and ill-health. Such understanding might better equip teachers and others to help young people, irrespective of their class and cultural background, avoid falling prey to conditions that may damage or even potentially destroy their young lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-142
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004


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