Family communication between children and their parents about inherited genetic conditions: a meta-synthesis of the research

Eur J Hum Genet. 2008 Oct;16(10):1193-200. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2008.84. Epub 2008 Apr 23.


In families affected by an inherited genetic condition, parents face a difficult task of having to communicate genetic risk information to their children. A systematic review of all major health and medical research databases was undertaken using current guidelines to identify original relevant research papers from 1980 to 2007, which explore the issues surrounding parents and their children's communication about inherited genetic risk. A total of 9698 abstracts were found of which 158 research papers were reviewed as potentially relevant. A final 17 papers were identified which met predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Using a meta-ethnographic approach, all identified studies' findings were analysed as primary data sources by three researchers, who independently identified the key concepts. A high level of congruence emerged between researchers, and agreed concepts were used to examine similarities and differences between papers. The findings informed the development of a narrative framework exploring the issues that related to parents' explanations of inherited genetic risk to their children, the reasons for sharing information, children's understanding of parents' explanations, the emotions evoked for family members and the support and guidance received from health professionals. Providing information, checking understanding, and explaining and managing the emotional feelings that arise were integral to supporting children's coping with genetic risk information. However, many parents struggled with one or more of these components and required more support specific to the child's developmental stage, and family members' transition of readjustment to the impact of the genetic condition.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Communication*
  • Emotions
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology*