Congruence-Incongruence Patterns in Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Couples’ Genetic Determinist Beliefs and Perceived Control over Genes: Implications for Clinical and Public Health Genomic Communication
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Genomics makes possible the isolation of multiple genes as co-factors that increase, but do not determine, risk for many adult-onset medical conditions, including alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD). Those diagnosed with an adult-onset medical condition, such as AATD, are often married and make decisions about testing and care as a couple. We examined genetic essentialist and threat beliefs, focusing on beliefs about the genetic contribution to disease susceptibility and severity, as well as perceptions of control related to genes and health for married couples (N =59), in which one spouse has been tested for genetic mutations associated with AATD. The intraclass correlation for spouses’ beliefs about genetic essentialism was strong and statistically significant, but the associations for their other beliefs were not. Incongruence between AATD participants and their spouses regarding genes’ influence on disease severity directly related to incongruent perceptions of control and genetic contribution to disease susceptibility. Results revealed an inverse relationship to AATD participants’ perceptions of behavioral control and a direct relationship to their beliefs about genes’ influence on disease severity. This suggests a pattern of incongruence in which AATD participants have low levels of perceived control over genes’ influence on health and high levels of perceived genetic influence on disease severity compared to spouses. With public health communication efforts lagging behind the science of genomics, insights regarding the congruence or incongruence associated with married couples’ beliefs about genes’ influence on disease afford pathways to guide clinical and public health communication about genomics.