The Role of Appearance in Adolescents’ Experiences of Neurofibromatosis Type 1: A Survey of Young People and Parents

J. Barke, Jane Coad

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Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a genetic condition which can result in varying degrees of visible difference (disfigurement). Adolescence is a time when appearance concerns become more salient for many young people and is acknowledged as a particularly challenging time for individuals with NF1. There is currently little research into the psychosocial impact of the appearance changes associated with NF1 during this stage of life. In order to address this, surveys of young people with NF1 aged 14–24 years (n = 73), and parents of young people with NF1 (n = 55) were developed following interview studies with these groups. The surveys included the Perceived Stigma Questionnaire, Social Comfort Questionnaire, Body Esteem Scale (appearance subscale) and the Subjective Happiness Scale. Young people and parents identified appearance as central to young peoples’ experience of NF1, however no significant difference was found on measures of body esteem, happiness, stigma or social comfort between those young people who reported their NF1 was noticeable to others and those who reported it was not. Findings from the parent survey indicated that their reports of greater perceived noticeability did relate to greater perceived stigma and lower levels of social comfort. Findings highlight the importance of attending to young people’s concerns around appearance in general and managing the possibility of future appearance changes, rather than the current noticeability of NF1.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

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  • Neurofibromatosis Type 1
  • NF1
  • Young people
  • Parents
  • Appearance
  • Body image
  • Psychosocial


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