The Meaning of Type 2 Diabetes to a Sample of African American Adults and Their Adult Children

O'Connor, Margaret
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Research has explored how illness and its meaning can impact families (Scollan-Koliopoulos, 2004). However, there is limited literature on the interaction between parents who are ill and their adult children, and how family history influences communication about the illness. The purpose of this study therefore was to investigate the communication between African American parents diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and their African American adult children, especially because of the high rate of T2D in this population. More specifically, this study used the Family Systems Illness Model and Illness Narrative to investigate the meaning that T2D had in the lives of 20 African American families. The study sample was recruited from the Family and Community Health Study (FACHS), a longitudinal project on stress and health, producing interviews of 21 diabetic adults and their adult children. This study analyzed these data.

A phenomenological approach was used in this qualitative study, which had a unique perspective as both the parent diagnosed with T2D and their adult child were present for the interviews. The results showed that T2D’s onset, course, outcome, and degree of incapacitation in relatives, as well as beliefs about T2D, impacted the meaning of the illness for both the diagnosed parents and their adult children in this sample. These findings underline the importance of family experiences with T2D as potentially contributing to better healthcare programs for individuals and families affected by this illness.

African American, Family Health, Meaning of Illness, Qualitative, Type 2 Diabetes