Personal and Relationship Challenges of Adults With Type 1 Diabetes

A qualitative focus group study

  1. Ruth S. Weinstock, MD, PHD2
  1. 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York
  2. 2School of Family Life, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
  3. 3Department of Medicine, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York
  1. Corresponding author: Paula M. Trief, triefp{at}


OBJECTIVE Little is known about the psychosocial challenges of adults living with type 1 diabetes or its impact on partner relationships. This qualitative study was undertaken to gain better understanding of these issues.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Four focus groups were held, two with adult type 1 diabetic patients (n = 16) and two with partners (n = 14). Two broad questions were posed: “What are the emotional and interpersonal challenges you have experienced because you have (your partner has) type 1 diabetes?” and “How does the fact that you have (your partner has) type 1 diabetes affect your relationship with your partner, positively and/or negatively?” Sessions were recorded and transcribed, and analyzed by a team of four researchers, using constant comparative methods to identify core domains and concepts.

RESULTS Four main domains were identified: 1) impact of diabetes on the relationship, including level of partner involvement, emotional impact of diabetes on the relationship, and concerns about child-rearing; 2) understanding the impact of hypoglycemia; 3) stress of potential complications; and 4) benefits of technology. Themes suggest that, although partner involvement varies (very little to significant), there exists significant anxiety about hypoglycemia and future complications and sources of conflict that may increase relationship stress. Partner support is highly valued, and technology has a positive influence.

CONCLUSIONS Adults with type 1 diabetes face unique emotional and interpersonal challenges. Future research should focus on gaining a better understanding of how they cope and the effect of psychosocial stressors and coping on adherence, quality of life, and glycemic control.

  • Received August 23, 2012.
  • Accepted January 21, 2013.

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