Family communication central to mothers’ type 2 diabetes self-management.

Carla L. Fisher, Michaela D. Mullis, Donghee Lee, Christy J.W. Ledford

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


Introduction: How families function and provide support plays a central role in patients’ self-management of Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and prediabetes (preDM). Families would benefit from communication training, which is rarely incorporated into diabetes self-management education (DSME). Mothers are especially in need of this support. Women are at a higher risk of T2DM, and when mothers are patients, they can prioritize their family role and family's well-being over their personal needs as a patient. Method: To identify family communication that affects mothers’ ability to self-manage T2DM/preDM, we interviewed 17 mothers aged 36–64 (M = 56). Transcripts were thematically analyzed. Results: Women described four family communication experiences affecting self-care: (a) family-of-origin communication (e.g., weight/diet messages during childhood), (b) communal coping communication (e.g., adopting healthy behaviors as a family), (c) communication inhibiting communal coping (e.g., negative response to mothers’ lifestyle changes), and (d) mothers taking the lead (e.g., leading conversations or communicating control over family's lifestyle decisions). Discussion: Findings highlight the need for a family systems approach to DSME. Communication from multiple bonds (e.g., spouse, children) and past family-of-origin experiences impact self-care. Communal coping (appraising diabetes as “our” problem) was critical to self-management as mothers struggled to balance their needs with family members’ preferences/attitudes. When not supported, mothers who took the lead communicatively could facilitate communal coping or prioritize self-care needs. Findings can inform a family-centered approach to DSME that highlights the importance of communal coping, provides all members communication skills training, and addresses the need for mothers to prioritize personal well-being. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) <strong xmlns:lang="en">Public Significant Statement—This study illustrates how family communication (across relationships and generations) is central to mothers’ ability to self-manage T2DM or pre-DM, demonstrating the need for diabetes self-management education to be family-centered. Mothers struggle to balance their own disease management needs with the preferences of their family members with regard to diet and exercise habits. When families communally cope together, mothers’ ability to manage T2DM/pre-DM is enhanced. When families do not cope together, it is important that mothers take the lead in making lifestyle changes they need to promote better disease management. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-405
Number of pages10
JournalFamilies, Systems and Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • communal coping
  • diabetes management
  • family communication
  • mother

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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