There is a great deal of fear about tinkering with something as fundamental to our society and to our collective mental health as the family structure. Every time a new family form comes into being, someone is wagging their head in worry about what it means and how the children will be impacted.
I get this. It’s hard not to worry about how technology and new family structures will affect kids and parents. Fortunately the answers are beginning to come in.
I was like a kid in a candy store this week when I interviewed Dr. Susan Golombok, the leading researcher worldwide on how new forms of families are doing and how they affect children. She is the Director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge, in Cambridge England, and the author of a terrific new book, Modern Families: Parents and Children in New Family Forms. We talked about how families and kids are doing in single mom families, families that conceived with IVF or donor sperm, egg, or embryo, and same sex families.
It’s hard to imagine that back when IVF first started people were concerned that family units would be less strong and children would suffer. These same feelings resurfaced with donor egg and surrogacy. Concerns were even greater with same sex parents and single mothers by choice. We now have some answers about how these “new” families are doing.
The News is Reassuring
According to Dr. Golombok:
Although children in lesbian, gay, solo mother and assisted reproduction families are indistinguishable from children in traditional families in terms of psychological well-being, there appear to be differences between these family types in the quality of parenting. Contrary to expectation, these differences generally reflect a higher, rather than a lower, quality of parenting in new family forms.
The most likely explanation for this unexpected finding lies in these parent’ high motivation to have children; couple who are less motivated to have children are more likely to give up along the way.
It may also be relevant that the children in these families are, by necessity, planned. Unlike children in traditional families, these children cannot be conceived unintentionally, and there is evidence to show that planned pregnancies are associated with more positive outcomes for all concerned.
It looks like family form is less important by far than the quality of family life. Good parenting can happen in any type of family.
Resources We Talked About
Resources you should look at:
- Talking with Kids about Donor Conception (tons of audio, blogs, book lists, expert Q and A’s, etc.)
- Talking with Older Kids about Donor Conception– tip sheet
- Panel of Donor Conceived Adults Speak Out- 1 hour audio
- Choice Moms– great website and community for single moms by choice/solo moms
Does this research surprise you in any way?
P.S. I can’t recommend enough Dr. Golombok’s book Modern Families: Parents and Children in New Family Forms. It is informative and encouraging. Buy it!