Redefining relationships and identity in young adults with type 1 diabetes

J Adv Nurs. 2010 Jan;66(1):128-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2009.05166.x.


Aim: This paper is a report of a study exploring the meaning of interactions with and supports of self-management from parents and other significant others for young adults with type 1 diabetes.

Background: Adolescence and young adulthood is known to be a critical period for people living with diabetes in terms of diabetes control, which is why support from significant others is of utmost importance during the transition to adult life.

Method: A grounded theory approach was used. Interviews with 13 young adults with type 1 diabetes and 13 parents 2 years after transfer to adult diabetes care were conducted during 2006-2007. Internet communication between young people on a diabetes website was also included in the constant comparative analysis.

Findings: Transition to adult life for young adults with diabetes was characterized by a relational and reflexive process leading to ongoing redefinition of relationships and identity. Parents were perceived as the most reliable supporters, compared to partners, siblings and other significant others. Chat friends can also become important through emotional, social and diabetes-related support in internet communication. The young adults showed growing awareness of their own capacities, shortcomings and emotional reactions, reflections which contribute to a redefinition of self.

Conclusion: Further research is needed to explore how contemporary interactions contribute to development of the self. By focusing on supporting relationships, nurses are in a strategic position to develop knowledge and modify clinical programmes that promote diabetes management and care by taking supporting interactions into account from a contemporary point of view.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Social Identification
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult