Social support in children with a chronic condition

Can J Nurs Res. Winter 1996;28(4):15-36.


This study used a descriptive exploratory design to describe social support in children with a chronic condition and how children use social support in coping with everyday demands and demands related to their condition. Participants comprised 62 school-aged children (16 with diabetes, 16 with cystic fibrosis, 15 with spina bifida, and 15 with no chronic illness). Data were collected about their social-support networks, the support functions provided by the networks, and their satisfaction with support. The children also described the social support they received and their use of social support as a coping strategy in specific stressful situations. The healthy children had the largest support networks overall and the largest peer networks. Children with spina bifida had the smallest networks overall and the smallest number of peers in their networks. Healthy children reported more support overall than the children in the illness groups. Both the healthy children and the children with a chronic condition described academic issues as the main source of everyday stress. Children with a chronic condition identified restriction due to illness as the key illness-related stressor. Children with a chronic condition reported more stress and more support-seeking in everyday stressful situations than in illness situations. The results will guide the design of a future social-support intervention for children with a chronic condition.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / psychology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Social Support*
  • Spinal Dysraphism / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires