Effects of Peer Influence in Adolescents With Type 1 Diabetes

A group of friends talking.
A group of friends talking.
Study underscores the need to focus on the peer context to understand the functioning of youths with type 1 diabetes.

Peer support in adolescents with type 1 diabetes may negatively predict extreme peer orientation, treatment distress, and worse glycemic control, according to a study published in Diabetes Care.

Researchers identified 467 adolescents and emerging adults with type 1 diabetes (ages 15-17 and 18-25 years, respectively) to participate in a longitudinal 2-wave study on the directionality effects of peer influence, extreme peer orientation (degree to which fitting in is valued more than important age-specific tasks), peer support (general emotional support from peers), and parental responsiveness (warmth and emotional support) over time on diabetes-related distress and treatment adherence.

Study results showed a negatively predicted association between peer support and diabetes-related distress over time, whereas treatment distress over time was positively predicted by extreme peer orientation. Parental responsiveness was found to negatively predict food distress. Extreme peer orientation, treatment distress, and HbA1c values over time were negatively predicted by treatment adherence. In addition, HbA1c values and extreme peer orientation were found to have a reciprocal positive predictive relationship with each other.

Researchers concluded that peer influence and parental support significantly affect disease and treatment management in adolescents and emerging adults with type 1 diabetes. Therefore, higher levels of emotional support from peers can be predictive of less diabetes-related distress and should be encouraged by clinicians. In addition, patient-peer interactions should be assessed and monitored regularly by clinicians.

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Raymaekers K, Oris L, Prikken S, et al. The role of peers for diabetes management in adolescents and emerging adults with type 1 diabetes: a longitudinal study. Diabetes Care. 2017;40:1678-1684.