“In Sickness and in Health”? Disclosures of Genetic Risks in Dating

Klitzman, Robert L.; Sweeney, Meghan M.

Individuals who have, or are at risk for, various genetic disorders face many challenges concerning disclosures of genetic information in dating situations. We conducted a qualitative interview study of 64 individuals confronting Huntington's disease, breast cancer, or Alpha‐1 antitrypsin deficiency, examining what issues these individuals encountered, and how they viewed and addressed these—including issues of understandings, privacy, and disclosures of genetic information to various groups (e.g., family members). Incidental to the primary research questions addressed, participants also often described a series of dilemmas in dating situations that they and/or family members, friends, and fellow patients faced of whether to date, and if so, whether, what, how, why, and when to disclose their genetic risk or illness. At times, these individuals feared and experienced rejection, and hence delayed, avoided, or opposed disclosure, or disclosed indirectly or inadvertently. These data are reported in this paper and highlight the importance of patients, their loved ones, genetic counselors, and other health care providers being aware of these issues, and appreciating the complex factors involved, which can affect patients’ coping and social support. This paper, the first to explore several key aspects of disclosures of genetic information in dating, thus suggests needs for public and professional education, and future research in this area.


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Journal of Genetic Counseling

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July 6, 2020