Middle school teachers' intentions to refer eating disorder students for professional counseling

Diann Carr, Florida International University


Eating disorders can lead to a negative impact on students' academic growth, nutrition and can cause death (Claude-Pierre, 1997; Manley, Rickson, & Standeven, 2000; Romeo, 1996). Early intervention by referring students to professional counseling might help counter these negative consequences. The teacher is in the position to assist students by providing health information, identifying those with problems, and intervening for a variety of dysfunctions that may include the eating disorders called anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (Myers-Clark & Christopher, 2000). However teachers are in a difficult position to know when to address student concerns and judge what action to take (Ransley, 1999). Teachers' engagement seems crucial (Smolak, Harris, Levine, & Shisslak, 2001) since eating disorders are being identified in younger children. The purpose of this study was to examine (a) the relationships of the theoretical constructs, attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control of the theory of planned behavior as predictors of behavioral intention (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980) of middle school teachers to identify and refer suspected anorexia nervosa (AN) and/or bulimia nervosa (BN) students for professional help; and (b) the actual behavior of middle school teachers who reported having ever referred a student suspected of having AN and BN and those teachers who reported not having made such a referral. One hundred fourteen middle school teachers in Broward County, Florida volunteered to participate in the ex post facto research. Data were collected from a questionnaire. Multiple regression analysis revealed that the constructs of subjective norm (perception of what others think about one's performance of behavior combined with motivation to comply) and perceived behavioral control (perception regarding the extent of the difficulty of performing the behavior) were predictive of teachers' intent (likelihood of engaging in a behavior) to refer. However, the analysis revealed that attitude (overall positive or negative feeling with respect to performing the behavior) was not predictive of teachers' intent. Discriminant function analysis revealed that both intent and perceived behavioral control were predictive of group membership, either having referred a student suspected of having an eating disorder for counseling or not having made such a referral. Attitude and subjective norm were not predictive of group membership.

Subject Area

Middle School education|Counseling Psychology

Recommended Citation

Carr, Diann, "Middle school teachers' intentions to refer eating disorder students for professional counseling" (2011). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3502101.