Social Support for Diabetes Illness Management: Supporting Adolescents and Caregivers

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Abstract

Objective:

The aim of this research study was to examine the relationship between 4 sources of social support (support for the adolescent from family, support for the adolescent from friends, support for the caregiver from another adult, and support to the family from the health care provider) and adolescents' diabetes outcomes (illness management behavior and health status) using a diverse sample of urban adolescents.

Method:

One hundred forty-one adolescents with insulin-managed diabetes and their primary caregivers completed questionnaires assessing social support and illness management behavior. Glucose meters were downloaded and hemoglobin A1c assays were obtained. Structural equation modeling was used to test a model social support informed by social ecological theory.

Results:

The results of the structural equation modeling indicated that support for the caregiver from another adult was directly and positively related to support for the adolescent from family and indirectly related to better illness management. Support for the adolescent from family was directly related to better diabetes management and, through better management, to better diabetes health. Support to the family from the health care provider was not related to support for the adolescent and support to the adolescent from friends was not related to illness management, as hypothesized.

Conclusion:

This study identifies a novel target for social support intervention to improve adolescents' illness management behavior—the caregivers of adolescents with diabetes. By enhancing the social support caregivers receive from other adults in their lives, caregivers' ability to support their adolescent children with diabetes might also be improved which, in turn, improves adolescents' illness outcomes.

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