Diabetic adolescents have more trouble sticking to their treatment plan Type 1 if their parents become increasingly lax about monitoring the child's treatment, concludes a new study.
The study by University of Utah psychologists will be presented in Seattle Friday, April 9 during the Society of Behavioral Medicine's annual meeting.
"The findings suggest that if we could improve the quality of the parent-adolescent relationship and increase parents' monitoring of adolescents' diabetes management, we could improve adolescents' adherence to the type 1 diabetes regimen and, subsequently, their long-term health," says the study's first author, Pamela King, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology.
King says proper management of type 1 diabetes - also known as juvenile diabetes - requires adherence to a complicated, demanding treatment regimen, including multiple daily blood-glucose tests, multiple insulin injections or use of an insulin pump, regular meals, limited fat and carbohydrate intake, regular exercise, and adjustments to insulin dosage based on diet and exercise. Type 1 diabetics produce no insulin of their own.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation estimates that type 1 diabetes shortens life expectancy by seven to 10 years. "Of course, life expectancy will be influenced by how well people manage their diabetes over their lifetime," says King.
Despite the fact that poor adherence has life-threatening consequences for health, previous research suggests that adherence declines significantly during adolescence. But most of the earlier studies were "cross-sectional," meaning they only looked at a snapshot in time.
To reach the conclusion, the Utah psychologists conducted a "longitudinal" study, in which they analyzed the behavior of 252 adolescent type 1 diabetics and their parents over a two-year period, conducting interviews every six months about the youths' adherence to their treatment regimen and different aspects of parental involvement.