Peanut allergy as a family project: social relations and transitions in adolescence

J Clin Nurs. 2017 Nov;26(21-22):3371-3381. doi: 10.1111/jocn.13696. Epub 2017 Feb 17.


Aims and objectives: To explore and better understand the impact that peanut allergy can have on family experiences in everyday life through interviews with individual family members.

Background: Peanut allergy affects adolescents' quality of life through the need to avoid eating peanut-containing food and the risk of anaphylaxis. Adolescence is a period of increasing separation from parents and has the highest risk of food fatalities.

Design: A qualitative interview study taking a phenomenological-hermeneutical approach.

Methods: Data were generated through semi-structured individual interviews with the adolescent with peanut allergy, and both parents and a sibling. Five families were interviewed, with 20 participants in total. The theoretical foundation was the family as an interactive system, and data were analysed with Ricoeur's theory of interpretation.

Results: The consequences of peanut allergy appeared to affect all family members and required knowledge and understanding, especially in the social network. Siblings took responsibility and had concerns for the well-being of the adolescent with allergy, while parents expressed difficulties with their child's transition to independence and their subsequent loss of control. Social relations with new family members or friends were challenged by lack of knowledge about the potential seriousness of peanut allergy.

Conclusions: Risk and uncertainty were permanent companions for the adolescents with peanut allergy and their families. It takes time to acquire the necessary understanding about peanut allergy and the risk of anaphylaxis. The adolescent's social network also needs this knowledge during the transition to independent living.

Relevance to clinical practice: In the management of peanut allergy in adolescence, it is important to consider not only the smaller biological family unit (mothers, fathers and siblings) but to also take a wider perspective to include others such as stepfamily and friends.

Keywords: adolescents; anaphylaxis; everyday life; family; family nursing; food allergy; parents; qualitative methods; siblings.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development
  • Attitude to Health
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Friends / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life*