Parental stress linked to health outcomes for children with type 1 diabetes

Improved parental wellbeing could lead to better management of type 1 diabetes in children. 



A recent study conducted in Riyadh explored the effects of parental care on children with type 1 diabetes and found a correlation between parenting, parent-child interactions, emotional wellbeing and achieving better glycemic control in a child. By understanding the connection, the researchers could target parent-child interactions as points of intervention.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic illness characterised by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin which is used to balance glucose levels. According to the study, the rate of diabetes among people below the age of 20 is increasing between 2 and 5% globally each year. In Saudi Arabia, T1 diabetes affects 1.095 per 1,000 children and adolescents.

Diabetes management involves insulin injections, dietary control and adjustment of doses in relation to exercise and insulin sensitivity during the day. Family structure and education were found to be factors that affected the children’s glycaemic index. The study showed that, “parents of children with type 1 diabetes in Riyadh experience a considerable level of stress, correlating with the child’s glycaemic profile that could affect the diabetes control.”

The research focused on four main concepts: communication, emotional distress, medical care, and role function. This cross-sectional study was conducted in Riyadh with 390 parents. The findings showed that “the higher the involvement of the family, the better the outcome of disease management.” Of the 390 parents, 95% were mothers. The mothers’ health knowledge and socioeconomic status had a major influence on glycaemic control in type 1 diabetes pediatric patients.

Parent-child communication and parent-doctor communication were both considered pivotal areas. The study suggests that “communication can be improved during clinic visits by using simple language when explaining specific procedures.”

The study also found that the parent’s feelings about the child’s wellbeing, as well as waiting for stressful news, are factors that cause emotional distress. The study suggested that parents attend education programmes to learn about their child’s disease.

The study authors recommend, with the correlation of the child’s hypoglycaemic index to the parental stress level, that “the parental level of stress should be periodically assessed, and to provide optimum care, psychosocial support should be incorporated as part of routine care for these patients and their families.”


  1. Aldubayee, M. et al. Parental levels of stress managing a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in Riyadh: a cross sectional study. BMC Psychiatry 20, 5 (2020). | article

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