Identifying Factors that Facilitate Treatment Adherence in Cystic Fibrosis: Qualitative Analyses of Interviews with Parents and Adolescents

Christina J. Nicolais, Ruth Bernstein, Estefany Saez-Flores, Katherine A. McLean, Kristin A. Riekert, Alexandra L. Quittner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a progressive, genetic disease affecting multiple organ systems. Treatments are complex and take 2–4 h per day. Adherence is 50% or less for pulmonary medications, airway clearance, and enzymes. Prior research has identified demographic and psychological variables associated with better adherence; however, no study has extensively identified facilitators of treatment adherence (e.g., adaptive behaviors and cognitions) in a sample of parents and adolescents. Forty-three participants were recruited from four CF centers as part of a larger measurement study. Participants included 29 parents (72% mothers; 72% Caucasian) and 14 adolescents (ages 11–20, 64% female, 71% Caucasian). Participants completed semi-structured interviews to elicit barriers to adherence. However, facilitators of adherence naturally emerged, therefore indicating need for further exploration. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and content-analyzed in NVivo to identify those behaviors and beliefs that facilitated adherence, using a phenomenological analysis. Frequencies of these themes were tabulated. Nine themes emerged, with individual codes subsumed under each. Themes included social support, community support, organizational strategies, “intrinsic characteristics,” combining treatments with pleasurable activity, flexibility, easier or faster treatment, prioritizing treatments, and negative effects of non-adherence. Results demonstrated the importance of identifying strategies that positively affect adherence. Interventions that are strength-focused, build on prior success, and utilize positive models generated by those who have successfully integrated CF treatments into their lives are more likely to be efficacious.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)530-540
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Adherence
  • Adolescents
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Facilitators
  • Parents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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