Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 465–475 | Cite as

An Exploration of the Cultural Context of Kinship and Genetics Amongst Arabic-Australians: Implications for Practice

  • Mona Saleh
  • Kristine Barlow-Stewart
  • Bettina Meiser
  • Judy Kirk
  • Kathy Tucker
Original Research


This paper examines the culturally determined attitudes and beliefs about kinship, causation of hereditary cancer and other illnesses and the importance of family history amongst Arabic-Australians. Ethnographic interviews were conducted initially with individuals who had attended a family cancer clinic and subsequently with community members. Our aim was to either verify or challenge the reported findings from the clinic sample. Interviews with 38 participants provided cultural descriptions of hereditary illnesses, including cancer, and their causes. While respondents recognized family history as an important factor that reflects on one’s likelihood of successful child-bearing, models of kinship described were not in line with Western concepts. Important issues emerged which need to be recognized as potential barriers to access to genetics services and challenges in this community. These include a lack of awareness of inherited cancer and the impact of consanguinity on the understanding of kinship in this community.


Cultural competence Kinship Hereditary cancer Cultural diversity Genetic services 



This work was supported in part by a Strategic Research Partnership Grant from the NSW Cancer Council. Bettina Meiser is supported by a Career Development Award from The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (ID 350989). We gratefully acknowledge the clinic data managers Irena Kotchetkova and Nishath Syed for their assistance and support of this project as well as the Arab Council Australia for assisting in the recruitment of participants. Much appreciation goes to Prof Maurice Eisenbruch for his useful cultural insight and guidance. Many thanks also to the willing interview participants themselves. Without their honesty, openness and valuable contribution, this study would not have been possible.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mona Saleh
    • 1
    • 2
    • 8
  • Kristine Barlow-Stewart
    • 1
    • 3
  • Bettina Meiser
    • 4
    • 5
  • Judy Kirk
    • 6
  • Kathy Tucker
    • 7
  1. 1.Centre for Genetics EducationRoyal North Shore HospitalSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of PsychiatryUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Psychosocial Research Group, Department of Medical OncologyPrince of Wales HospitalSydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Prince of Wales Clinical SchoolUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  6. 6.Familial Cancer ServiceWestmead HospitalSydneyAustralia
  7. 7.Hereditary Cancer ClinicPrince of Wales HospitalSydneyAustralia
  8. 8.Centre for Genetics EducationSt LeonardsAustralia

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