Deakin University

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The mother-daughter guilt dynamic : effects of type 1 diabetes during life transitions

journal contribution
posted on 2008-11-01, 00:00 authored by Bodil RasmussenBodil Rasmussen, Patricia Dunning, Helen CoxHelen Cox, B O`Connell
Aim. The aim of the study was to explore and describe the strategies young women with type 1 diabetes used to manage life transitions. The paper describes one aspect of how guilt dynamic often operates between mothers and daughters and how the women managed the guilt dynamic to create stability in their lives.
When a child is diagnosed with diabetes, major transitional changes occur in the relationships between the mother and her child. The changes affect the psychological and social aspects of their lives and have a major impact on how young women manage their diabetes. A guilt dynamic between mothers and young women with diabetes emerged as a major theme in a larger study that investigated how young women with diabetes managed life transitions. Although the literature indicates that mothers of chronically ill children experience guilt feelings towards their children, little research was identified that addressed the emotional dynamics between mothers and daughters with diabetes.
Design. Using grounded theory method, interviews were conducted with 20 women with type 1 diabetes and five mothers during 2002 and 2003. Constant comparative analysis was used to analyse the data and develop an in-depth understanding of the experience of living with diabetes during life transitions.
Findings. The findings revealed that guilt feelings created a two-way dependency between mothers and their daughters with diabetes. The two-way dependency involved feelings of being a burden to each other, difficulty balancing responsibilities for diabetes management, difficulty relinquishing emotional and social dependency especially during life transitions. In addition, these issues were rarely discussed openly with each other or with health professionals. The findings provide additional information about the human experience of the mother–daughter relationship and the effect on coping with diabetes in the context of life transitions.
Understanding the impact diabetes has on the emotional and social well being of both women with type 1 diabetes and their mothers is critical in planning appropriate support for both groups. Most importantly, it is critical to understand the guilt dynamic that operates during young women with diabetes' life transitions when the daughters' dependency on their mother's control and responsibility for diabetes management undergo changes resulting in emotional responses, especially guilt feelings.
Relevance to clinical practice. Health professionals need to understand the emotional and social impact of the guilt dynamics between young women with type 1 diabetes and their mothers. Adequate and appropriate support can minimize the guilt feelings and enhance stability and quality of life for both mothers and their daughters, especially during major life transitions, such as motherhood.



Journal of clinical nursing






380 - 389


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd


United Kingdom







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2008, Blackwell Publishing Ltd