A group of researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, conducted a study on parental worry and its effect on children with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). The study was published in The Diabetes Educator, July/August 1992.
Ninety-three parents answered a 37-item survey to determine what worried them the most about their child’s diabetes. It was found that there was little difference in the types of concerns that parents felt about their child’s diabetes, regardless of the child’s age or the duration of their diabetes.
The five most common concerns, from the most worrisome, were 1) that complications may develop from their child’s diabetes, 2) that their child might not get insurance, 3) that they worry too much about their child’s diabetes, 4) that they are being too overprotective, and 5) that their other children may develop the disease.
From their study, the researchers found that there was no correlation between parental anxiety and the metabolic control of the children. They did discover though, that parents were more concerned by how healthy their child appeared than by their child’s actual measured health status. The authors suspect that parents misunderstand that measured blood glucose is an indicator of their child’s health status.
In regards to the correlation between the age of the child and the degree of parental anxiety, it was found that the younger the child with diabetes was, the greater the parental concern. On the other hand, no correlation was found between the amount of parental concern and the duration of the diabetes. Parents of recently diagnosed children were equally as concerned as those with children whose diabetes had been diagnosed earlier.
The authors of the report do point out that parental concern is appropriate, and that health care professionals should be concerned if parents do not treat diabetes as a potentially life-threatening disease. But overanxiety could hinder the child’s development and independence, which may lead to poor diabetes control and awareness as an adult.