The Impact of Diabetes on Adolescent Development: The Experiences of Teenagers with Diabetes Attending a Summer Camp
Maria Iole Colombini and Emanuela Schivalocchi
Affiliation: dott.ssa Maria Iole Colombini, Via Collegno, 15-20158 Milan, Italy.
Keywords: Diabetes, adolescent development, auto-determination process, chronic illness, doctor-patient relationship, illness
as a persecutory object, self-narration.
Background: Diabetes is a particularly difficult burden for the young adolescent, who is confronted with a
chronic and potentially life-threatening illness in addition to the developmental challenges of adolescence. Adolescents
with this illness are at risk for impaired psychosocial functioning as well as poor glycemic control and its many consequences.
Method: In this article we describe some aspects of the emotional experience of adolescents aged 12 to 14 who are confronted
with the sense of limitation caused by diabetes. These descriptions are based on our observations of youngsters
who attended a special summer camp aimed at helping them acquire the ability to manage their clinical condition. This
camp also offered the teenagers the opportunity to tell something about themselves, their narratives focusing on emotions
rather than on the functioning of their body (Barbieri, 2005).
Conclusions: The camp experience facilitated a better understanding of diabetes, a realistic self-appraisal, and age appropriate
self-management of the diabetes. An essential aspect of the camp was an interdisciplinary approach in which a psychologist
played an important role. An intervention in which adolescents told their stories which was modeled on a popular
TV reality show that was designed to facilitate the development of mentalization and the creation of narratives that
supported healthy development in the face of chronic illness.
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