How does the mode of inheritance of a genetic condition influence families? A study of guilt, blame, stigma, and understanding of inheritance and reproductive risks in families with X-linked and autosomal recessive diseases

Cynthia A. James, Donald W. Hadley, Neil A. Holtzman, Jerry A. Winkelstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Purpose: While the mode of inheritance of a genetic condition has long been considered to have not only medical, but also psychosocial consequences for families, this supposition has never been tested. Methods: We surveyed 112 members of 51 families (59% response) with chronic granulomatous disease to determine the influence of mode of inheritance on parents', siblings', and patients' (1) knowledge of inheritance and reproductive risk; (2) concern about risk to future family-members; (3) feelings of guilt and blame; and (4) feelings of stigmatization. Ninety-six members of 51 families (49% response) with Duchenne/Becker muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy types II/III were also studied. Results: X-linked families had better understanding of inheritance (P < 0.001) and reproductive risks (P < 0.01). X-linked mothers worried more about risks to future generations; other autosomal-recessive family members were as worried. X-linked mothers were more likely to feel guilty (P < 0.01) and blame themselves (P < 0.001). X-linked fathers blamed their child's mother (P < 0.05) and X-linked mothers felt more blamed by the father (P < 0.01). X-linked family-members were more likely to consider being a carrier stigmatizing (P < 0.05). Conclusion: When providing genetic counseling, attention should be given to guilt and blame in X-linked families and understanding reproductive risks in autosomal recessive families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-242
Number of pages9
JournalGenetics in Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2006



  • Chronic granulomatous disease
  • Genetic counseling
  • Guilt
  • Knowledge
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)

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