Purpose: We examined differences in the nature of friendship between adolescents with diabetes and healthy adolescents. We also examined whether friend support and negative relations with friends were related to health for both groups.
Method: We interviewed 127 adolescents with diabetes and 129 healthy adolescents on two occasions, separated by one year. We measured aspects of friendship and psychological health among both groups as well as self-care behavior and metabolic control among adolescents with diabetes. We used logistic regression analysis to predict the presence of friends, repeated measures analysis of covariance to predict changes in friendship over time, and hierarchical multiple regression analysis to examine the relations of friendship to psychological health, self-care behavior, and metabolic control.
Results: Both groups of adolescents were equally likely to have a best friend and boyfriend/girlfriend, but healthy adolescents were more likely to have an other-gender friend. Adolescents with diabetes and healthy adolescents reported similar levels of friend support, but support increased over the year for healthy girls only. Boys with diabetes had the lowest levels of friend support. Negative relations with friends were inversely related to psychological health and predicted a decline in psychological health over time. Negative relations also predicted poor metabolic control and a deterioration of metabolic control over time.
Conclusion: There are similarities and differences in the nature of friendship for adolescents with diabetes compared with healthy adolescents. Friendship serves a protective function for psychological health for both groups and has implications for physical health among those with diabetes.