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Peer Relations of Chronically ill Young Adults

Free University of Berlin

Prof. Dr. Uwe Flick

Oct 01, 2021 — Sep 30, 2024

Background and objectives of the project Chronic diseases may occur at any age and are therefore not limited to (older) adulthood. Young adults with chronic health conditions are a target group in a stage of life that is characterized by special challenges and is considered a phase of searching and exploring: Young adults’ experiment in terms of romantic relationships, work relationships or world views. They maintain a variety of social contacts, sporadically enter romantic relationships and leave them again. Furthermore, young adults have important career decisions to make. They decide for or against a certain training paths and sometimes revise these decisions again. Young adults with chronic illnesses not only face these normative developmental demands. They also must increasingly take responsibility for their own disease management, which was previously taken care of by their parents. Whether they succeed in meeting disease-specific requirements and integrating the disease into everyday life depends not only on them alone, but also on social reference persons, especially peers of the same age. However, many chronically ill young adults are considered socially isolated. They experience that they are unable to maintain social relationships during acute episodes of illness, or feel fundamentally misunderstood by friends or partners. However, there is a lack of in-depth, systematic knowledge about the social integration of young adults with chronic diseases, especially in Germany. Our project aims to advance the understanding of this matter by gender-sensitively analyzing which role peers play for the illness behavior of chronically ill young adults who are in the phase of transition from school to further education. Moreover, we will ask how the illness influences the quality of peer relationships of chronically ill young adults. Mutual influences between chronic illnesses and social relationships will also be analyzed not only from the perspective of those affected, but also from that of their peers.   Methodological approach Episodic interviews will be conducted with young adults who suffer from diabetes/I, cancer or inflammatory bowel disease and who differ from each other in terms of the severity and course of their disease. In addition, peers of the chronically ill young adults who are relevant to them as support person will be interviewed. The interviews will be analyzed by using thematic coding, which serves to identify patterns of interpretation and action as well as to develop typologies on the basis of contrasting case studies.