For complex genetic diseases involving incomplete penetrance, genetic heterogeneity, and multiple disease genes, it is often difficult to determine the molecular variant(s) responsible for the disease pathogenesis. Linkage and association studies may help identify genetic regions and molecular variants suspected of being directly responsible for disease predisposition or protection, but, especially for complex diseases, they are less useful for determining when a predisposing molecular variant has been identified. In this paper, we expand upon the simple concept that if a genetic factor predisposing to disease has been fully identified, then a parent homozygous for this factor should transmit either of his/her copies at random to any affected children. Closely linked markers are used to determine identity by descent values in affected sib pairs from a parent homozygous for a putative disease predisposing factor. The expected deviation of haplotype sharing from 50%, when not all haplotypes carrying this factor are in fact equally predisposing, has been algebraically determined for a single locus general disease model. Equations to determine expected sharing for multiple disease alleles or multiple disease locus models have been formulated. The recessive case is in practice limiting and therefore can be used to estimate the maximum proportion of putative susceptibility haplotypes which are in fact predisposing to disease when the mode of inheritance of a disease is unknown. This method has been applied to 27 DR3/DR3 parents and 50 DR4/DR4 parents who have at least 2 children affected with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). The transmission of both DR3 and DR4 haplotypes is statistically different from 50% (P < 0.05 and P < 0.001, respectively). An upper estimate for the proportion of DR3 haplotypes associated with a high IDDM susceptibility is 49%, and for DR4 haplotypes 38%. Our results show that the joint presence of non-Asp at DQ beta position 57 and Arg at DQ alpha position 52, which has been proposed as a strong IDDM predisposing factor, is insufficient to explain the HLA component of IDDM predisposition.