PhD Graduates – Dickinson

Jane Kristin Dickinson, PhD
May 2000

“The Lived Experience of Adolescent Females with Diabetes: A Phenomenological Approach”

About the thesis: Adolescent females with type 1 diabetes are at risk for long-term complications including retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy. Habits formed during this period can positively or negatively influence future health outcomes. It is crucial for diabetes care providers to understand what it is like for adolescent females to live with this disease in order to design and implement effective approaches to the delivery of care and education for this population. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of what it means for adolescent females to live with type 1 diabetes. The following research question was investigated: What is it like for adolescent females to live with type 1 diabetes?

Introduction: Van Manen’s phenomenological framework was used to guide the project of inquiry. A purposive sample of 10 adolescent females, ages 16 and 17 years, volunteered to participate in this study. Adolescents, recruited from a diabetes camp, participated in unstructured, one-on-one interviews. Participants’ accounts were transcribed and van Manen’s wholistic and selective approaches were used to identify and analyze themes.

Results: This research revealed five themes, which were presented in the context of a piece of music: Chorus – blending in with the adolescent culture; Solo – standing out and being watched; Trills – weighing the options and choosing a tune; Chords – being tethered to the system and to diabetes; and Dissonance – struggling with conflicts. The findings of the study indicated that there are several conflicts these adolescent females struggle with and choices they are forced to make on a daily basis. These girls are tethered to a disease that will never go away and the health care system that goes with it. Although they find aspects of diabetes difficult to live with, these young women adopt ways to handle their disease within the context of their lives so that it is actually “no big deal”. Fitting in with their peers is often more important than diabetes management for this group of adolescents. By making visible the experience of living with type 1 diabetes for a group of adolescent females, these findings have implications for nursing practice, education, and research.