"We Only Did it Because He Asked Us": Gendered Accounts of Participation in a Population Genetic Data Collection

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This article draws upon findings from an interview study with twenty-three families about participation in a large-scale population genetic database called, “Generation Scotland: The Scottish Family Health Study” (GS: SFHS). GS: SFHS aspires to become a DNA identification vehicle for the discovery of genetic contributions to diseases that affect the Scottish population e.g., cancer, heart disease and mental illness. Little is known about why families invited to take part in this type of research do so, especially when a family member is acting as a ‘proxy’ recruiter and is healthy with no known genetic (or otherwise) disease. Who will agree to be such a ‘proxy recruiter’ (or ‘proband’), who GS: SFHS will recruit and why has been shown to be dependent on the existence of family disease, proband use of indirect and direct coercion, and the status of family relationships more generally. This study adds to these findings demonstrating that participation is limited by family history affecting the numbers of family members who can be recruited and enhanced by gender affecting who will be recruited. Although not mutually exclusive, the reasons for participation by probands were tied to leaving a ‘healthy legacy,’ whereas for the family members it was because they were asked and felt obliged to or were persuaded to by the proband. This research concludes: 1) biology is a choice not a given; 2) yet the biological basis of family relationships can give rise to a gendering of recruitment to the clinical study; and 3) women continue to be ‘kin-keepers’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1010-1017
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


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