J Genet Couns 2016 06 17;25(3):583-95. Epub 2015 Nov 17.
Department of Pediatrics, Division of Clinical and Metabolic Genetics, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Adolescence is a complex period of development that involves creating a sense of identity, autonomy, relationships and values. This stage of adjustment can be complicated by having a genetic condition. Genetic counseling can play an important role in providing information and support to this patient population; however, resources and guidelines are currently limited. In order to appropriately establish genetic counseling approaches and resource development, we investigated the experiences and perspectives of adolescents with a genetic condition with respect to their genetic counseling interactions. Using a qualitative exploratory approach, eleven semi-structured interviews were conducted with adolescents diagnosed with a genetic condition who received genetic counseling between the ages of 12 and 18 years at The Hospital for Sick Children. Transcripts were analyzed thematically using qualitative content analysis, from which three major interrelated themes emerged: 1) understanding the genetic counselor's role; 2) increasing perceived personal control; and 3) adolescent-specific factors influencing adaptation to one's condition. Additionally, a list of suggested tools and strategies for genetic counseling practice were elucidated. Our findings can contribute to the development of an adolescent-focused framework to enhance emerging genetic counseling approaches for this patient population, and can also facilitate the transition process from pediatric to adult care within patient and family-centered contexts.