Living with chronic illness in the family setting


Address for correspondence: Susan Gregory, Research Unit in Health, Behaviour and Change, University of Edinburgh, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG e-mail:


This paper discusses the ways in which family practices and family relationships interact with the demands of diet-related chronic illness. It uses a study that examined the management of food and diet in families where one member had been diagnosed with one of two medical conditions: coronary heart disease (CHD) and coeliac disease (CD). The data revealed a propensity for family members, especially female partners/wives, to see the tasks and activities related to the special diet in terms of family practices rather than individual (patients’) responsibilities. These family practices could be seen to be gendered but also part of the ongoing lived experience of the family relationship. It is speculated that this is part of a desire for what Giddens has described as ‘ontological security’. Thus, the special diet tends to be assimilated into family practices in ways that promote a sense of continuity that is described as ‘normality’ or ‘leading a normal life’.