"There is a chance for me" - Risk communication in advanced maternal age genetic counseling sessions in South Africa

Tina Marie Wessels, Tom Koole

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    Providing risk information is central to genetic counseling. Many studies have examined risk communication, but the focus has been on professional and patient perspectives. Less information is available on risk communication in interactions. This study aimed to examine genetic counselors' (GCs) risks communication in multicultural genetic counseling sessions with women of advanced maternal age (AMA). Six GCs (2–20 years' experience) conducted AMA sessions in English (women's second language). The sessions were video and voice recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed using conversation analysis (CA). CA examines discourse as a topic, i.e. describing the turns, its functions and how these functions are accomplished. Analysis revealed that the GCs presented the risk of having a baby with a chromosome abnormality in several ways and that they invite the women to reflect on the risk information. This discussion was found to be a five step process and showed that the women responded to the invitation to reflect rather than the risk information itself by providing additional information. The counselors in the majority of the sessions responded to this additional information the women provided. It therefore seems that the way in which risks are presented are less important than the meaning of the risks for the women. The research showed the power of interactional research such as CA methodology to gain new insights into old problems. Importantly, the study revealed some on the nuances of risk communication in genetic counseling and has implications for practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)390-396
    Number of pages7
    JournalEuropean journal of medical genetics
    Issue number5
    Early online date30-Dec-2018
    Publication statusPublished - May-2019


    • Interactional research
    • Risk perception
    • genetic counseling
    • Risk communication
    • Conversation analysis
    • Multicultural

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