Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Eating disorders-Online chat groups, Qualitative research, Eating disorders, Online forums, Electronic support groups, Advice giving, Online support, Informational support


This qualitative, exploratory, descriptive study expanded the limited existing research on online eating disorder forums by examining the thematic content of advice giving on three different types of online eating disorder forums: 1) professional-operated, pro-recovery forums; 2) peer-operated, pro-recovery forums; and 3) peer-operated, pro-eating disorder forums. Additionally, the study sought to elucidate the comparative relationships amongst different forums between advice content, aims, and accuracy and key forum characteristics, such as forums' missions and methods of moderation. Two publicly available websites for each forum type were studied. From these, a total of 60 advice messages consisting of 91 advice units were collected, analyzed, and coded, resulting in 9 thematic topics: cognitive strategy/change, environmental/context change, behavioral change, medication/vitamins, getting more information, social support, professional help, support groups, and unclear. Professional-operated forums had the highest rate of recommendations for professional treatment, while users of prorecovery and pro-eating disorder forums emphasized behavioral and cognitive changes. Increased moderation and a clear pro-recovery stance appear to negatively correlate with destructive advice. However, pro-eating disorder forums appear to vary greatly and may be less likely to endorse disordered eating behaviors than previously thought. Given the limited resources available for this study, further research is needed to increase the reliability and generalizability of its findings and examine forum users' response to advice giving in online eating disorder forums.




iii, 70 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 58-68)