To examine whether family relations and family-life stress predict adherence behaviors and metabolic control in youths by testing a theoretically- and empirically-based model.
HbA1c levels of 157 youths 12–20 years of age with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) were evaluated, along with treatment adherence and psychosocial family data based on interviews and self-reports. A family-centered model for IDDM care was analyzed with the EQS structural modeling statistical program. An additional exploratory model including HbA1c levels 6 months earlier was also tested.
Positive family relations (high family cohesion and low family conflict), especially during the first years of illness, indirectly related to good metabolic control through positive adherence behaviors. High levels of family-life stress related to worse metabolic control directly, and also indirectly via poor family relations, which in turn related to poor adherence to treatment. Longer illness duration related indirectly to metabolic control via adherence to treatment. Longer illness duration also related to maternal perceptions of higher family-life stress. Older youths perceived more family-life stress as well. The older age of the youths related indirectly to poor metabolic control through its association with poor adherence behaviors and less cohesive and more conflictual family relations. Results were consistent when earlier levels of metabolic control were included in the model, except that the direct relationship between family-life stress and metabolic control became nonsignificant.
The findings suggest that a family-centered approach to diabetes care that facilitates positive family functioning and leads to lower levels of family-life stress may be useful in promoting optimal health outcomes.