Effects of Genetic Risk Information on Children's Psychosocial Wellbeing: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Genet Med. 2010 Jun;12(6):317-26. doi: 10.1097/GIM.0b013e3181de695c.


Purpose: As advances in research have made a growing number of genetic tests available, clinicians will increasingly be faced with making decisions about when offering genetic testing services to children is appropriate. A key factor in such decisions involves determining whether knowledge of genetic health risks might have an impact on children's psychosocial wellbeing.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the literature using five online databases to identify studies that assessed the impact of communicating nondiagnostic carrier or presymptomatic genetic test results to children.

Results: A total of 17 articles met the inclusion criteria for this review. These studies used a wide range of methodologies to explore carrier and predictive testing. Although there was little quantitative evidence that receiving genetic test results led to a significant impact on children's psychosocial wellbeing, it was found that methodological inconsistencies, small samples, and reliance on assessments most appropriate for psychopathology make any firm conclusions about the impact of genetic testing on children premature.

Conclusion: Currently, there is insufficient evidence to inform a nuanced understanding of how children respond to genetic testing. This suggests a strong need for further research that uses rigorous approaches to address children's emotional states, self-perception, and social wellbeing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Personality Development*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept