Matchmaker, Matchmaker: Disclosure Contexts amongst Mothers of Diabetic Children in the Haredi [Ultra-Orthodox] Jewish Community

D. Rier, A. Spitz

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This study examined mothers' experiences of disclosing or concealing their diabetic children's diagnosis in the Israeli haredi [ultra-Orthodox Jewish] population. We focus specifically on how these decisions are shaped by shidduchim [match-making], demonstrating how these ostensibly personal decisions actually are governed by communal norms and institutions. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 34 haredi mothers of diabetic children in Israel. When asked to describe their experiences in mothering these children, most spontaneously mentioned dilemmas of disclosure or concealment. Amongst this sample, 26% of mothers' descriptions classed them as being fully discrete about (i.e., concealing) their child's diabetes, while another 14% had been so in the past. A separate group, 17%, were partly discrete, while the remaining 43% generally disclosed. In this paper, we focus mainly on the experience of concealment. By far, shidduchim emerged as the primary factor in these disclosure decisions. This relates to the overwhelming significance of marriage and child-bearing in Orthodox Judaism. Indeed, match-making was considered the most important aspect of the experience of raising diabetic children, after the medical risk. This made disclosure decision-making key. In considering matches, mothers engaged in a complex calculus of relative social capital, in which health, itself, was the capital. Mothers tried to determine whether their child could hope for a match with a healthy mate or, if not, what types of deficiencies they must "settle for" to balance out their child's diabetes. Implications went far beyond the actual diabetic child. Siblings, and sometimes even cousins of diabetic children, could suffer from courtesy stigma that affected their own value in the match-making arena. Also, preparatory investigations of potential marriage mates entailed inquiries with friends, relatives, and neighbors, thus potentially involving scores of individuals in disclosure decisions. These results bear implications also for other traditional societies, such as in Asia, Africa, and the Mideast, where parents supervise match-making for diabetic children. Keywords: Medical sociology; Disclosure; Concealment; Diabetes; Haredi; ultra-Orthodox 
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2018
Event113th Annual Meeting - American Sociological Association, Philadelphia, United States
Duration: 11 Aug 201814 Aug 2018


Conference113th Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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