Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 541–547 | Cite as

Parents’ Understanding of Genetics and Heritability

  • Brittany Harding
  • Rylan Egan
  • Peter Kannu
  • Jennifer J. MacKenzie
Original Research


Parents have the opportunity to educate their children to facilitate behaviours and lifestyle habits that may prevent or delay genetic disease, or mitigate predispositions within the family. We sought to determine parents’ understanding of genetic knowledge and heritability. Using a quantitative survey methodology 108 volunteer participants were surveyed from a convenience sample of all parents/caregivers within the waiting room of a general children’s outpatient clinic. Results indicated that average genetic knowledge levels were fairly high, with the majority of participants scoring 70–80 % correct on knowledge-based questions. Further, scores were found to be positively correlated with education, but inversely correlated with self-perceived knowledge. This finding suggests that participants with less experience tended to overestimate their knowledge. We suggest that gaps in knowledge of genetics and heritability could be improved by using educational interventions such as media campaigns, provision of informational brochures, or changes to current high school curriculum which would increase exposure to genetics and heritability for both parents and children.


Counselling, genetic Education measurement Families Genetic diseases, inborn Health education Health knowledge, attitudes, practice Humans Public health Service, genetic 



We wish to thank the participants for volunteering to contribute to this study, Dr. D. Klinger who provided feedback on the data analysis, and Rachael Pinsky and Brian Siu who helped to collect the data.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Ms. Brittany Harding, Dr. Rylan Egan, Dr. Peter Kannu, and Dr. Jennifer J. MacKenzie declare that they have no conflict of interest.


No funding was obtained for this study.

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. The study received compliance from the Health Sciences and Affiliated Teaching Hospitals Research Ethics Board at Queen’s University.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brittany Harding
    • 1
  • Rylan Egan
    • 2
  • Peter Kannu
    • 3
  • Jennifer J. MacKenzie
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Health Sciences EducationQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Queen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  3. 3.The Hospital for Sick Children and University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Department of PediatricsQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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