Diabetes‐by‐Proxy: Virtual Embodiment of Disease by Oklahoma Choctaw Parents of Children with Type 1 Diabetes

J. Neil Henderson, Linda D. Carson, Alisa Tomette, Amanda Hass, Kama King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Childhood type 1 diabetes is increasing globally and requires meticulous at-home care due to risks for fatal outcomes if glucose levels are not continuously and correctly monitored. Type 1 diabetes research has focused on metabolism and stress measurements confirming high parental worry levels. However, research on caregivers’ management strategies has lagged. We show parents’ intense, all-encompassing work to preempt a disastrous drop in their child's glucose as a stress-path to the virtual embodiment of their child's condition. That is, parents acquire diabetes-by-proxy. Our findings derive from four and half years of ethnographic research with the same 19 families in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. These parents were exceptionally engaged as caregivers and distressed by the potentially fatal outcome of type 1 diabetes mismanagement. Diabetes-by-proxy names the parents’ experience and validates clinical attention to them as they cope with their crucial caregiving commitment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-42
Number of pages18
JournalMedical Anthropology Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was conducted in partnership with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. However, all aspects of this research are the responsibility of the authors. This research was supported by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, grant award number P20MD000528.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the American Anthropological Association


  • caregiving
  • diabetes-by-proxy
  • embodiment
  • type 1 diabetes
  • Caregivers
  • Parents/psychology
  • Indians, North American/ethnology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Anthropology, Medical
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Oklahoma/ethnology
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1/ethnology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


Dive into the research topics of 'Diabetes‐by‐Proxy: Virtual Embodiment of Disease by Oklahoma Choctaw Parents of Children with Type 1 Diabetes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this