Gender, adolescence and the management of diabetes


Clare Williams SSRU, Institute of Education, University of London, 18 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0NS, UK.


Gender, adolescence and the management of diabetes

Health professionals view adolescence as a difficult time in which to manage diabetes. Adherence to treatment may be a problem, and there is also an expectation that young people should become independent in self-care. Drawing on data from a qualitative study which interviewed teenagers with diabetes and their mothers, this paper focuses on the ways in which gender and adolescence interact to affect how young people live with diabetes. Key themes explored include: the gendered meanings of diabetes; gendered management strategies; gendered dependencies; and adherence to treatment regimes. Gender was found to have a major impact on how young people managed diabetes. Gender also impacted on the involvement of mothers, with the mothers of sons much more likely to be involved in helping their sons than the mothers of daughters. In discussing some of the implications for health policy, it is suggested that in their ways of managing diabetes, young people should be seen as acting rationally within the confines of their gendered identities. Therefore, a uniform policy which promotes the independence of young people may not always be an appropriate way of working with young people or their families.