Fragile X Syndrome: A Family Study

Wessels, Tina-Marie
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Fragile X syndrome is, second to Down syndrome, the commonest form of genetic mental retardation. The aim of this research project was to investigate the impact of having a child with this syndrome on the family relationships. The subjects were 21 mothers and 9 fathers of affected children. The data were collected by means of specially constructed questionnaires in interviews with 19 mothers and 8 fathers and completed by post in three cases. A control group of parents with a normal child, matched for sex and age of the affected child, family size and ethnic groups, was interviewed. The data were computerised and analyzed. The results showed that more experimental parents than controls enjoyed their child’s nature, but disliked the behavioural problems. About half of the experimental parents tended not to reward good behaviour physically. However, although most of the affected children were accepted by their siblings, they had fewer friends and more problems with their peers. Some parents thought that their relationship with their spouse had improved and others thought that it had deteriorated after the affected child’s birth. Most parents in both study groups would request prenatal diagnosis in subsequent pregnancies and significantly more experimental parents than controls would request a termination of pregnancy for an affected fetus. Most parents were satisfied with the health service they received. These results show that family dynamics are disturbed by the presence of a child with FMR. Counsellors and therapists working with these families should be aware of the effects of the syndrome on the family
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Medicine. Johannesburg October, 1997