Many girls suffer from an eating disorder particularly when they are in their teenage years or early 20s. A Swedish study recently discovered a link in which girls with highly educated parents and grandparents have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder, especially if they did well in school themselves.

The study followed 13,000 females between 1952 and 1989. It found that girls from families with high academic achievement were at greater risk for being hospitalized for anorexia or another eating disorder. Researchers believe the reasoning behind this is that the girls feel more pressure from their families to succeed. Many girls develop an eating disorder because they feel their body and their weight are something that they can control. Higher achieving girls are more likely to be perfectionists and have personality traits that make them more prone to develop eating disorders. Academic achievement, on the other hand, isn’t something that they can necessarily control.

When girls face these pressures and behaviors along with low self-esteem, there is an even bigger issue. These girls may feel that they can’t live up to the expectations that are set for them. So, they try to control other aspects of their life and develop anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Researchers could see the link after tracking how many times these women required hospitalization for eating disorders up until 2002. They recognized that girls whose parents went to college were twice as likely to develop a disorder as fellow students who had parents with a lower level of education. The risk for an eating disorder was six times higher among girls whose maternal grandmothers had earned a college education. Girls also had twice the risk of hospitalization if they had the highest grades in their class rather than the lowest.

Women in general may face greater levels of stress and therefore greater risk. The study doesn’t prove that higher education and school achievement lead to these eating disorders. However, one link the study didn’t address was the fact that many of these highly educated families tend to have more money.

Currently, obesity is linked to lower socioeconomic status. This means that there is also a pressure for these individuals to control their weight. For example, I know a girl from a wealthy family. Even though she and her family are very thin, they go to a fat camp every summer to lose five pounds. Generally the stereotype associated with individuals that are obese or heavy is that they are lazy. So the upper class will do anything to get away from that stigma, which includes hiring personal trainers, constantly dieting, or developing eating disorders.

There is so much pressure out there that girls are facing today. They face pressure from their families, educators, peers, religious leaders, members in their communities, and coaches. When they have highly educated family members, they feel that they have a tremendous responsibility to not let the family down; and that lack of control and pressure can lead them to having an eating disorder.

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