Chronic Illness in Adolescence

By Boice, Margaret M. | Adolescence, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Chronic Illness in Adolescence


Boice, Margaret M., Adolescence


Adolescence is a time of tremendous social, biological, psychological, and intellectual change. Coping with a chronic illness can add yet another dimension to adolescents' lives. Due to medical advances, more adolescents than ever before are leading productive lives despite experiencing serious illnesses. In the United States, 10% of all adolescents suffer from a chronic illness (Blum, 1992; Krementz, 1989; Millstein & Litt, 1990). In total, approximately one million children have a chronic illness that affects daily life (Perrin & MacLean, 1988) and another ten million have somewhat less serious illnesses (Haggerty, 1984).

A chronic illness is defined as "one that lasts for a substantial period of time or that has sequelae that are debilitating for a long period of time" (Perrin, 1985, p. 2). More specifically, Pless and Pinkerton (1975) describe a chronic medical condition as one that interferes in daily life for longer than three months in a year or requires hospitalization for more than one month in a year. The most common chronic condition is asthma, followed by sensory disorders and nervous system disorders. Examples of chronic illnesses include HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, lupus, cystic fibrosis, anorexia nervosa, spina bifida, cardiovascular disease, and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).

In the past, children with many of these illnesses would never have lived long enough to become adolescents. In the past 25 years, the survival rate for children with cystic fibrosis has increased 700%; for spina bifida, the increase has been 200%; and for congenital heart disease, 300% (Blum, 1992). In fact, chronic disease and its effect on children and families has replaced acute illness as the most serious issue in pediatric medicine (Hobbs, Perrin, & Ireys, 1985).

Medical care has progressed to the point where it is necessary to find ways to enable victims of these diseases to surmount the normal stresses of adolescence and prepare for productive adult lives. For the most part, research has established that "adolescents who have a chronic condition are at increased risk for experiencing adjustment problems" (Wallander & Varni, 1995, p. 209). The present paper reviews the literature on adolescents with a chronic illness, addressing social, biological, psychological, cognitive, and cultural issues.

SOCIAL ISSUES

Minuchin (1974) describes the family as an interactive social system within which each individual responds to stress caused by others in the family and contributes to stress felt by others. In order to better understand the developmental issues related to disabled children, Mitchell (1983) adapted Bronfenbrenner's ecological theory to these children and their families. The microsystem level involves parent-child, parent-parent, and child-child interactions. Each of these interactions is a source of potential problems. In the mesosystem, interactions expand to include medical workers, extended family and friends, neighbors, and others. The potential for problematic interactions is thus increased. The exosystem, containing both the microsystem and mesosystem, includes the media, education system, and social programs. Finally, the macrosystem, which contains all of the previous systems, includes economic, political, cultural, and religious spheres. Bronfenbrenner's theory requires a study of the child in the context of all these systems.

For chronically ill adolescents, the developmental problems normally associated with adolescence are magnified. An overarching concern relates to social acceptance. An issue for all adolescents, this becomes more serious for those with chronic illnesses, who may spend a great amount of time isolated from other teenagers or in the company of adults. Seligman and Darling (1989) state that "peer acceptance or lack of it may be especially painful for the entire family during the adolescent years. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Chronic Illness in Adolescence
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.