Teen years could get harder for diabetic children

Posted on April 8, 2010

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by Josh Bennett

Staff Writer

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Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A new U study concludes that the health of children with diabetes is influenced by their relationship with their parents.

If a mother-child relationship is poor, a child is more likely to slip up on treatment, according to the U study. The study also shows that as children age, parents feel that they should be taking a less-active role in the children’s diabetic treatment, relying more on them to do it on their own.

Diabetes is a grueling illness and the older the children get, the harder it becomes on the parents, said Cynthia Berg, professor and chairwoman of psychology. “We need to offer support to the parents of diabetic children.”

As children get older, they become harder to monitor, Berg said, but she encouraged continuation of monitoring.

To ensure children receives proper treatment “a nice, warm, (parent-child) relationship is needed,” Berg said.

The study shows that as diabetic teens grow older, there is decline in three aspects of parental involvement—monitoring, acceptance and assistance, according to the statement.

The decline comes from a poor relationship with parents, according to the study. If relationships with parents could be improved, along with monitoring, children with diabetes could improve their long-term health, said Pamela King, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology.

King and Berg were partners in the study, which lasted more than two years. The research studied 252 adolescent type-1 diabetics and their parents, conducting interviews every six months. The interviews concerned treatment and parental involvement.

“Adolescence is a challenging time for those with a chronic illness,” King said in a statement. “Adolescents experience a variety of biological, psychological and social changes before they reach adulthood. Adolescents with a chronic illness have to cope with these normal developmental challenges while trying to manage the demands of their chronic illness.”

Participants of the study were between the ages of 10 and 14, and by the time the study was over, some were closing in on 17 years old.

Further research is planned, as some of these participants are getting ready to go to college or go on missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Berg said. It becomes even more difficult for parents to monitor when diabetic adolescents get to this stage of life, she said.

The conclusion of this study will be presented in Seattle on Friday, during the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s annual meeting.

j.bennett@chronicle.utah.edu

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