Poll: Parents Like the Idea of Genetically Testing Kids at Home

Filed under: Medical Conditions, Development/Milestones: Babies, In The News, Weird But True

Can genetic testing tell what kids talents are? Credit: Getty Images


If you want to know if he loves you so, it's in his kiss.

That works for boyfriends. But if you want to know if your kid can play the cello, it's in his genes.

Step right up, folks. Be the first on your block to get a handy-dandy, gen-u-wine at-home genetic test kit. Not only can you learn what horrible diseases your child might get later in life, you can learn what your kid's natural talents are, too.

Is he a born ballet dancer or accountant? Let one of these kits tell you.

They're all the rage. Seriously.

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health surveyed 1,461 parents and found that 53 percent of them would love to get their hands on an at-home genetic testing kit. And most said they would like to know what genetic diseases might be ready to pounce on their children.

Some, however, may be laboring the under the delusion that they will be able to read their children's personalities and talents in the genetic tea leaves. The Los Angeles Times reports unscrupulous marketers have been not-so-gently suggesting that genetic testing sees all and knows all.

Sorry. Your friendly neighborhood mad scientist has to do a lot more experiments before we get to that brave new world. However, genetic testing does hold the promise of being able to predict children's risk of certain diseases.

Yet, according to the poll, some parents will have none of it. Of the 47 percent of parents who rejected the idea of genetic testing, most responded it was a case of que sera sera. Whatever will be, will be.

At least 87 percent of parents who rejected testing responded that getting the medical equivalent of movie spoilers will only make them worry. Parents also worried their children might get slapped with labels that would lead to discrimination later on.

To test or not to test may not be a decision up to parents, however. The Times reports that federal Food and Drug Administration officials don't like the idea of direct-to-consumer genetic tests and may regulate them like medical devices.

By removing the doctor from the equation, the newspaper reports, officials worry parents may make rash and uneducated medical decisions.

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health is part of the University of Michigan Health System.

Beth A. Tarini, MD, an assistant professor in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit Division of General Pediatrics at the University of Michigan, was one of the leaders of the survey and says in a press release this week that parents need to understand the science of genetic testing.

"It's important for parents to understand that we have little data about the benefits and harms associated with the use of this testing in children," Tarini says in the release. "Advocates argue that personal genetic testing may motivate parents and children to take preventive actions, while critics believe personal genetic tests may provide inaccurate or incomplete information that may worry parents and children more than it helps them."

Genetic testing might indeed be a Pandora's box, Tarini admits.

"Personal genetic testing of children creates medical, ethical and legal challenges that go beyond the current discussion about the regulation of these tests," she says in the release.

Related: In-Vitro Babies Show (Slightly) Higher Risk for Cancer

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.