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Female Adolescent Body Image and Success at School: A Grounded Theory Approach to Administrative Best Practice
Murphy, Erin K.

2011, Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Education, Cleveland State University, College of Education and Human Services.

At present, school administrators do not have necessary information to create a school environment where teenage girls unhappy with their bodies can experience success at school. This research surrounds three research questions:
1. How do adolescent girls’ definitions of their bodies relate to their perception of their high school’s climate?
2. How does the manner in which adolescent female girls define their bodies relate to their success in school?
3. What is the nature of adolescent girls’ and high school administrators’ perceptions of how adolescent girls’ body image influences administrative practice?


Four school administrators and ten high school girls were interviewed. During semi-structured interviews, participants answered questions about their experiences with body images in the context of a midwestern urban high school. Data were analyzed using grounded theory methodology, a qualitative research method where inductive creation of theory is the goal.


The data demonstrated that girls construct a complex and dynamic “body illusion” composed of the types of clothing they may wear, social comparison and changes experienced with their bodies. This body illusion is variable based upon three distorting factors: input from others, culture and mood. As a result of a girl’s body illusion, she may behave a certain way in school; a girl with a negative body illusion may disengage from her school work.


The data showed that students with poor body illusions may be helped by certain best practices by school administrators. First, body-based bullying of students with poor body illusions or above or below average weights is commonplace and largely unaddressed. Anti-bullying programs must be inclusive of this issue. Next, school lunches are are highly caloric and unappealing to students. This encourages unhealthy behaviors such as indulgence, meal skipping and unhealthy substitution. School administrators should focus on the quality of school lunches. Third, school uniform policies serve to make girls with negative body illusions feel uncomfortable while they do little to improve achievement. They should be evaluated for their effectiveness. Finally, health, physical education and family and consumer sciences curricula should include mental and physical fitness attributes but give positive reinforcement to students.

Brian Harper (Committee Co-Chair)
Frederick Hampton (Committee Co-Chair)
Catherine Hansman (Other)
Ralph Mawdsley (Committee Member)
Constance Hollinger (Committee Member)
131 p.

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Murphy, E. (2011). Female Adolescent Body Image and Success at School: A Grounded Theory Approach to Administrative Best Practice. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Murphy, Erin. "Female Adolescent Body Image and Success at School: A Grounded Theory Approach to Administrative Best Practice." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Cleveland State University, 2011. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 31 Aug 2015.

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Murphy, Erin "Female Adolescent Body Image and Success at School: A Grounded Theory Approach to Administrative Best Practice." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Cleveland State University, 2011. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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