Helping Children With Eating Disorders:
Quintessential Research on Etiology,
Prevention, Assessment, and Treatment
Shane R. Jimerson
University of California, Santa Barbara
Increasingly, educational professionals have recognized the influence of socioemotional health on both classroom adjustment and achievement. However, it seems that relatively few professionals working in the schools are adequately prepared to consider the potential implications of eating disorders on subsequent school adjustment and achievement, and provide support for these students. This avoidance has been due in part to the belief that eating disorders are medical disabilities separate from educational concerns. However, eating disorders pose particular problems in the educational setting for numerous reasons. First, the age range of eating disorders now extends to early elementary school (age 7 years), with increasing prevalence in children and adolescents (Bryant-Waugh & Lask, 1995; Phelps & Bajorek, 1991). Second, recent research suggests that the incidence of eating disorders has risen dramatically over the past two decades with no evidence of abatement (Lucas, Beard, O'Fallon, & Kurland, 1991; Steiner & Lock, 1998). The prevalence of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa among girls between the ages of 10 and 19 (approximately 2% and 4%, respectively) places eating disorders among the most common chronic illnesses of adolescent girls (Lucas et al., 1991; Stice & Agras, 1998). With this increased scope and significance, eating disorders can no longer be overlooked in our schools.
Broadly, eating disorders include rumination, pica, obesity, anorexia, and bulimia. Of particular concern for our students are both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental