Dr. Jennifer Bute, along with doctoral student Clarissa Bowers and doctoral program graduate Daniel Park, recently published an article in Health Communication exploring how parents use communication to manage their children’s food allergies. The study is part of Dr. Bute’s ongoing program of research exploring communication about food allergies and stems from her service on Food Allergy Research & Education’s Outcomes Research Advisory Board.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has identified food allergies as a critical public health issue that significantly affects quality of life for patients and their families. Despite the crisis-level status of food allergies, especially in children, there are currently no curative treatments. As a result, impacted families must learn how to carry the burden of disease management. Using an expanded application of the concept of communication work, this study features data from interviews with 26 parents of food allergic children and explores how parents navigate the nuances of food allergy maintenance while negotiating and preserving valued relationships and identities through everyday talk. Results revealed that parents used communication to legitimate food allergy, balance potential face-threats with identity and relational goals, and coordinate care with spouses. Due to the lack of therapeutic treatment options, we found that parents utilize communication work, which is both demanding and effortful, as a form of disease management.
Jennifer Bute is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI