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Title: A genetic diagnosis for obesity : social and moral experiences of the body and responsibility in childhood
Author: Badger, S. J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of the impact of genetic research on how obesity is understood, explained and experienced across scientific, political, personal and familial terrains. This thesis draws on three main areas of data: the historical, biomedical and scientific literature concerning obesity and causation; ethnographic work with Genetics of Obesity Study (GOOS) across the laboratory and clinical research facility conducted between November 2003 and August 2006; and ethnographic work and qualitative interviews conducted with up to three generations from 21 families recruited to GOOS. In short, the data suggested that a genetic diagnosis for obesity raises several different issues to those associated with other genetic conditions. In western societies, obesity is often equated with negative body image and health risks resulting in stigmatisation and blame being directed toward the individual and in the case of childhood obesity, also toward parents. While a genetic diagnosis may offer alternative explanations and relief from guilt, there is also a degree of ambivalence toward the result. The data suggest that assumed commentaries about the transformative impact of a genetic diagnosis are overstated. Participation in GOOS is prompted by a broad range of motivations: from hopes for cures to the belief in a mutual exchange of data and relationship between the GOOS team and family members. Yet the transfer of that information to other disciplines and services that families encounter in their everyday negotiations has been limited. This suggests that factors such as the historical and political context, lay and professional beliefs about the norms of human development, the context of care and the ambiguity between clinical care and research participation, are important for the construction of a particular field and of disease status.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available