A qualitative study exploring genetic counsellors' experiences of counselling children

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Authors:
  • Fiona Ulph
  • James Leong
  • Cris Glazebrook
  • Ellen Townsend


The identification of healthy carriers by newborn screening programmes raises questions about how and when the carrier results will be conveyed to child. There is currently a lack of information concerning how best to convey carrier information to children. This is a serious gap in the literature and practice. This study examined genetic counsellors experiences of counselling children to explore how to support and inform children about their carrier result. Practising members of the United Kingdom (UK) Association of Genetic Nurses and Counsellors took part in semi-structured telephone interviews. Respondents described the communication process and identified barriers and facilitators of communication. Age, illness experience and maturity were variously discussed as facilitators; all of which are integral to psychological theories of children's understanding of illness. Adaptive family communication, school tuition and educational materials were also seen as influencing counselling efficacy. Relevant materials that children could keep were also seen as important to enhance children's autonomy. Yet, such resources were rare, constituting a barrier to communication. Counsellors reported communication was further impeded by maladaptive family communication and resistance from children to engaging in counselling. By exploring the facilitators and barriers inherent in communicating genetic information to children, guidance can be offered to counsellors, researchers and parents. This study indicates that some factors (eg illness experiences) previously identified by psychological theories may act in complex ways within this setting. Importantly, the factors identified as being most influential when communicating with children about genetics are amenable to change through interventions, support and training. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1090-1094
Number of pages4
JournalEuropean Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010