• Vol. 32 No. 1, 43–50
  • 15 January 2003

Adolescent Chronic Illness: A Qualitative Study of Psychosocial Adjustment



Introduction: The purpose of this study was to investigate the psychosocial issues facing young people living with a chronic medical condition.

Materials and Methods: Subjects were young people with a range of medical conditions who were on a waiting list to participate in the Chronic Illness Peer Support programme at the Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia. Young people agreed to in-depth interviews which were taped and transcribed. Thematic analysis was undertaken by two researchers working independently.

Results: Thirty-five young people were interviewed. Thematic analysis revealed five broad themes: control (in control, under control, out of control); emotional reactions (happiness, frustration, anger, sadness, anxiety); acceptance (of illness, of others, of self); coping strategies, and; a search for meaning. The importance of social connections was emphasised. While illustrating the difficulties of managing a chronic medical condition during adolescence, a generally positive message emerges about these young people.

Conclusions: Many young people with chronic illness appear relatively resilient in the face of the adjustment challenges presented by their illness. Interventions that allow a young person to explore meaning, build self-esteem, and acceptance through positive social connections are likely to improve adjustment outcomes in this group.

Chronic illness during adolescence can have significant psychological and social consequences within many life domains. Growing up with a chronic medical condition presents many challenges including dealing with the symptoms of illness, side effects of medications, altered body image, unpredictable disease progression, depression and anxiety.

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