The National Institute of Nursing Research has given the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) a four-year, $1.3 million grant to study how parents should encourage responsible self-care in adolescents with chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

“This is the first study of its kind to look at the development and self-care of adolescents with insulin-dependant diabetes in relation to family interactions and to follow these families for an extended period of time,” says Carol Dashiff, PhD, professor and chair of nursing graduate studies at UAB.

 

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The study will include 274 adolescents, ages 11 to 15, with Type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes. The disease, which affects approximately 1.2 million children in the U.S., requires daily injections of insulin. “If not properly managed, it can lead to serious health problems and can be life threatening,” Dashiff says. “The demands of daily monitoring are stressful for adolescents and parents.”

 

The study will include a group of African-American teens with Type 1 diabetes. “This is significant because African Americans are often not well represented in studies done in this area,” Dashiff states. “It’s important because what fosters responsible independence and self-care among black teens may be different than among white adolescents, so we will be looking at cultural differences and what impact they have on adolescents’ development.”

During home visits researchers will evaluate how teens and their parents discuss and resolve typical adolescent-related issues and diabetes management issues. “This will help us identify some characteristics of families that help facilitate responsible independence and self-care,” Dashiff says. “It will provide us with insight into parents’ and adolescents’ perspectives, how they differ and how these differences may affect development of independence and self-care.”

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As a result of the study, researchers hope to develop programs and material to help parents foster their children’s independence in diabetes control. “Parents of chronically ill children often ask for guidance in making decisions about how much independence to give their adolescents and in what areas,” Dashiff says. “This study will help us develop those guidelines.”

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