Assessment of risk by pregnant women: implications for genetic counseling and education.

G. A. Chase, R. R. Faden, N. A. Holtzman, A. J. Chwalow, C. O. Leonard, C. Lopes, K. Quaid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the central elements of genetic counseling is the transmission of quantitative information concerning risks of defects in an unborn child from counselor to client. In order to investigate this subject, the authors studied the understanding of numeric and nonnumeric descriptions of genetic risk by 190 pregnant women. Specifically, 3 risk issues were explored: whether women were able to interpret numeric risks as %s whether shifting denominators affected risk assessment; and the comparative assessment of risk of birth defects in general, and the risk of a neural tube defect, (NTDS) in particular. Respondents were much less likely to assign the correct % equivalent to risk information when the denominator was 1,000 rather than 100. The ability to correctly identify % equivalents affected respondents' quantitative assessment of the frequency of neural tube defects. Shifting the denominator from 100 to 1,000 however, did not affect women's quantitative assessment of the rarity of birth defects. In general, the respondents preserved the relative risk of birth defects and neural tube defects in their choice of descriptive terms. The majority of women evaluated serious birth defects as occurring "often" or "occasionally" and NTDS as occurring "rarely" or "very rarely." author's modified

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-64
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Biology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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