Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 247–258 | Cite as

“She Came out of mum’s Tummy the Wrong way” (Mis) Conceptions Among Siblings of Children with Rare Disorders

  • Torun M. Vatne
  • Ingerid Østborg Helmen
  • David Bahr
  • Øivind Kanavin
  • Livø Nyhus
Original Research


Misconceptions or uncertainty about the rare disorder of a sibling may cause adjustment problems among children. New knowledge about their misconceptions may enable genetic counselors to provide targeted information and increase siblings’ knowledge. This study aims to describe misconceptions and uncertainties of siblings of children with rare disorders. Content analysis was applied to videotapes of 11 support group sessions with 56 children aged 6 to 17. First, children’s statements about the disorder (turns) were categorized into the categories “identity,” “cause,” “cure,” “timeline,” and “consequences” and then coded as medically “correct,” “misunderstood,” or “uncertain.” Next, turns categorized as “misunderstood” or “uncertain” were analyzed to explore prominent trends. Associations between sibling age, type of disorder, and frequency of misconceptions or uncertainties were analyzed statistically. Approximately 16 % of the children’s turns were found to involve misconceptions or uncertainty about the disorder, most commonly about the identity or cause of the disorder. Misconceptions seemed to originate from information available in everyday family life, generalization of lay beliefs, or through difficulties understanding abstract medical concepts. Children expressed uncertainty about the reasons for everyday experiences (e.g. the abnormal behavior they observed). A lack of available information was described as causing uncertainty. Misconceptions and uncertainties were unrelated to child age or type of disorder. The information needs of siblings should always be addressed during genetic counseling, and advice and support offered to parents when needed. Information provided to siblings should be based on an exploration of their daily experiences and thoughts about the rare disorder.


Rare disorders Siblings Medical knowledge Misconceptions Information need Genetic counseling 



The authors would like to thank all the children, parents, and staff at Frambu who participated in this research. We would also like to thank Dr. Krister Westlye Fjermestad and Dr. Anne Kaasen for their help with preparing the manuscript.

Conflict of Interest

Torun Marie Vatne, Ingerid Østborg Helmen, David Bahr, Øivind Kanavin and Livø Nyhus declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human Studies and Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5). Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

Animal Studies

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Torun M. Vatne
    • 1
  • Ingerid Østborg Helmen
    • 2
  • David Bahr
    • 1
  • Øivind Kanavin
    • 1
  • Livø Nyhus
    • 1
  1. 1.Frambu resource centre for rare disordersSiggerudNorway
  2. 2.Haug School and resource centerSandvikaNorway

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