Implications of genetic risk information in families with a high density of bipolar disorder: An exploratory study

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While major susceptibility genes for bipolar disorder are yet to be identified, the opportunity exists to ascertain systematically the important issues and societal implications of genetic risk determination for bipolar disorder prior to these technological advances becoming widely available. This study explores, in a sample of families with a high density of bipolar disorder: (i) attitudes to predictive genetic and prenatal testing, using different risk frames; (ii) attributions for bipolar disorder, in particular the degree to which a genetic model is endorsed; and (iii) the impact of these attributions on the perceived stigma of bipolar disorder. A qualitative methodology was selected as most appropriate as no previous research has examined this issue. Participants were ascertained through a molecular genetics study of bipolar disorder. In-depth interviews were conducted with 21 members of families with a high density of bipolar disorder. Most participants reported being interested in genetic testing if it gave a definitive answer, while expressed interest in testing was lower if it gave a probable answer only. Almost all stressed that a genetic susceptibility and environmental factors interacted. Most participants felt that a genetic explanation was likely to decrease the stigma associated with bipolar disorder as it shifted the locus of control and responsibility away from the individual towards the role of heredity. Findings indicate that expressed interest in genetic testing depends on the certainty imparted by the test. Results suggest that families with bipolar disorder are likely to benefit psychologically from information about the genetic basis of bipolar disorder.
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Meiser, Bettina
Mitchell, Philip
McGirr, H
Van Herten, Mary
Schofield, Peter
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Journal Article
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UNSW Faculty