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December 8, 1978

Parents' Understanding of Genetic Risk Data in Genetic Counseling

Author Affiliations

Central State University Edmond, Okla

JAMA. 1978;240(24):2631-2632. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290240031012

To the Editor.—  Relatively little has been published on the parents' ability to grasp the importance of empirical risk data and Mendelian-type probabilities. Check (240:819,1978) cites the noteworthy articles to date. Unpublished data that I have collected involving 38 families with living cystic fibrotic children reflect the same type of results obtained by Leonard et al1 and Carter et al.2 Obtaining information only from the biological mothers, since 29% had been divorced, I found that when asked the probability of having another affected child with cystic fibrosis, 23% gave a correct response, 58% gave an incorrect response, and 19% said they did not know. Overall, 77% do not know the probability of having another affected child.As pointed out by Check, the level of uncertainty varies from one genetic disease to another. The basic problem is that for many reasons, consumers do not know what the recurrent risks