, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 536-546

Information Related to Prenatal Genetic Counseling: Interpretation by Adolescents, Effects on Risk Perception and Ethical Implications

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Abstract

Being raised in the genomic era may not only increase knowledge of available genetic testing but may also have an impact on how genetic information is perceived. However, little is known about how current adolescents react to the language commonly used by health care professionals providing prenatal counseling. In addition, as risk communication is related to numbers and figures, having different educational backgrounds may be associated with variability in risk perceptions. In order to investigate these issues, a previously developed questionnaire studying different ways of being told about hypothetical anomalies in a baby and corresponding risks (Abramsky and Fletcher Prenatal Diagnosis 22(13):1188–1194, 2002) was administered to high-school students in Sweden. A total of 344 questionnaires were completed by students belonging to a natural science or a social science program. The data show that teenage participants found technical jargon and words such as rare and abnormal more worrying than the presented comparison terms. Negative framing effects and perception differences related to numeric risk formats were also present. Additionally, participants’ gender and educational program did not seem to have an effect on risk assessment. In addition to reporting the questionnaire results, we discuss the ethical implications of the data based on the norm of non-directiveness and make some recommendations for practice. In general, genetic counselors should be aware that the language used within clinical services can be influential on this group of upcoming counselees.