Objective: To investigate childhood experiences and psychological characteristics in offspring of a parent with genetic disease. Method: Self-report scales were used to assess adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), adult attachment style, mental health, and psychological symptomatology in offspring of a parent with a neurogenetic disorder (i.e. Huntington's Disease, HD; Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy, CADASIL; and Hereditary Cerebral Hemorrhage With Amyloidosis-Dutch type, HCHWA-D), and in offspring of a parent affected with Hereditary Breast/Ovarian Cancer (HBOC). These groups were compared to persons who did not have a parent with one of these genetic diseases. Associations between childhood experiences and adult psychological characteristics were investigated. Results: Compared with the reference group (n = 127), offspring of a parent with a neurogenetic disorder (n = 96) reported more parental dysfunction in childhood, and showed more adult attachment anxiety and poorer mental health. Offspring of a parent with HBOC (n = 70) reported more parental loss in childhood and showed poorer mental health. Offspring who experienced parental genetic disease in childhood had more attachment anxiety than offspring who experienced parental disease later in life. In the group of offspring, a higher number of ACEs was associated with poorer mental health and more psychological symptomatology. Conclusions: This cross-sectional study indicates that adult offspring of a parent with genetic disease may differ in attachment style and mental health from persons without one of these genetic diseases in their family, and that this may be related to adverse childhood experiences.

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doi.org/10.1037/a0034530, hdl.handle.net/1765/89294
Health Psychology
Department of Clinical Genetics

van der Meer, L., van Duijn, M. A. J., Wolterbeek, R., & Tibben, A. (2014). Offspring of a parent with genetic disease: Childhood experiences and adult psychological characteristics. Health Psychology, 33(12), 1445–1453. doi:10.1037/a0034530