Perception of genetic risk among genetic counselors

Jennifer Roggenbuck, Janet E. Olson, Thomas A. Sellers, Carol Ludowese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


A mailed survey of female prenatal genetic counselors, obstetric nurses, and high school biology teachers was conducted to determine if these groups hold different attitudes toward genetic risk and to investigate the extent to which any differences result from the effect of different professional experiences. In this study, the participants were 166 genetic counselors, 116 obstetric nurses, and 78 biology teachers (n = 360). Survey participants completed a written questionnaire designed to assess their numeric estimate of the empiric risk for birth defects/genetic problems, their subjective perception of this risk, and their personal use of prenatal diagnosis. Genetic counselors were found to be less likely than the other groups to consider the frequency of birth defects/genetic problems as rare and were 10 times more likely than nurses and 8 times more likely than teachers to have had prenatal diagnosis. Furthermore, more than half of the prenatal diagnosis procedures had by genetic counselors were not medically indicated. These results suggest that genetic counselors have an increased perception of genetic risks relative to nurses or teachers. Possible explanations for this finding are discussed, and the potential role of discordant risk perception in creating biases in the genetic counseling process is explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-59
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Genetic counselor attitudes
  • Prenatal diagnosis
  • Risk perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)


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