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This is the final published version of the article from BMC Endocrine Disorders, 2020, Volume 20, Issue 1, 95.

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Copyright, Cunningham et. al.


BACKGROUND: A family history of diabetes and family members' experiences with diabetes may influence individuals' beliefs and expectations about their own diabetes. No qualitative studies have explored the relationship between family history and experiences and individuals' diabetes illness representations.

METHODS: Secondary data analysis of 89 exploratory, semi-structured interviews with adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes seeking care in an urban health system. Participants had a recent diabetes-related ED visit/hospitalization or hemoglobin A1c > 7.5%. Interviews were conducted until thematic saturation was achieved. Demographic data were collected via self-report and electronic medical record review. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded using a conventional content analysis approach. References to family history and family members' experiences with diabetes were analyzed using selected domains of Leventhal's Common Sense Model of Self-Regulation.

RESULTS: Participants cited both genetic and behavioral family history as a major cause of their diabetes. Stories of relatives' diabetes complications and death figured prominently in their discussion of consequences; however, participants felt controllability over diabetes through diet, physical activity, and other self-care behaviors.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings supported an important role of family diabetes history and experience in development of diabetes illness representations. Further research is needed to expand our understanding of the relationships between these perceptions, self-management behaviors, and outcomes. Family practice providers, diabetes educators and other team members should consider expanding assessment of current family structure and support to also include an exploration of family history with diabetes, including which family members had diabetes, their self-care behaviors, and their outcomes, and how this history fits into the patient's illness representations.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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