Caring for teens with chronic illness: risky business?

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2011 Aug;23(4):367-72. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e3283481101.


Purpose of review: With advances in medicine, more children with chronic illness are reaching adolescence and young adulthood. Research has shown that this group is not immune to the behavioral risks endorsed by healthy adolescents. Recent literature exploring the etiology of risk behaviors and their impact on chronic illness is presented.

Recent findings: Risk taking may be the result of differential maturation of two distinct parts of the adolescent brain. Risk taking can be considered normal in adolescents with chronic illness, but there is some evidence that chronic illness affects normal psychosocial development. Moreover, evidence supports that chronic illness can lead to disparities in risk education and assessment because of disease focused management rather than a more comprehensive approach.

Summary: Youth living with chronic illnesses face unique challenges in accomplishing the developmental tasks of adolescence. These challenges include risk behaviors, which jeopardize current and future health. The reasons for risk taking are multifactorial and require providers to make the adolescent and not the illness the center of management. More research is needed on how to improve developmentally appropriate and relevant interventions to aid in safe passage into adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Humans
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Risk-Taking*