How are Kids Conceived via Third Party Conception Doing?

Dawn Davenport


Psychological adjustment of donor conceived familiesAnyone doing any research at all on families created by sperm donation, egg donation, embryo donation, or surrogacy, will run across the name of Dr. Susan Golombok, Director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge in England. She and her team are have done the most thorough job of researching families formed in non-traditional ways. She is especially known for her longitudinal research which has been following children (now teens and young adults) and their parents. (Can you hear me swoon?!?)

Dr. Golombok was the guest on this week’s Creating a Family show talking about How Children Conceived with the Aid of Sperm/Egg/Embryo Donation or Surrogacy are Doing. Our other guest was Dr. Martha Rueter, Associate Professor of Family Social Science at University of Minnesota, who is also researching donor conceived families. If you used third party reproduction or are considering it, you absolutely MUST listen to this show (if only to hear me gush).




The Kids are Fine

Kids conceived with the help of donor sperm or donor egg look about the same as kids created through natural conception or families created by infant adoption.  In the pre-school years, these donor conceived families had more positive parent-child relationships than naturally conceived families, but this difference disappeared by middle elementary age.

Some Parents are Not So Fine

By middle childhood parents that had not told their child about their conception with donor sperm or eggs showed higher levels of emotional distress than parents that conceived naturally or those that had told their children. More worrisome, observational assessment of parent- child interactions showed less positive interactions with mothers that had not told their child about their conception. These differences were not observed in mothers that had told. These differences did not rise to the level of dysfunction, but were statistically significant.

P.S. I asked on the show if parents that used infertility treatment to conceive their children were more over-protective since that was the topic of a recent blog and subject of much discussion. Dr. Martha Reuter said that her research had found that while they say they are more protective, objective measure show that they parent about the same as parents that were not infertile.

Does this research findings that the kids are about the same, but parents that haven’t told are more stressed surprise you?

11/09/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 8 Comments

8 Responses to How are Kids Conceived via Third Party Conception Doing?

  1. Avatar AnonT says:

    I find it interesting that kids do better if they are told the truth from a early age. Initially it was counterintuitive to me but the more of your shows I listen to it just seems in every situation being open and honest is the best way. Thank you Dawn for putting together such wonderful shows!

  2. Avatar Greg says:

    “No, because keeping a secret is very stressful.”

    Agreed, and keeping a secret has the potential to lead to more lies to keep that secret just that. In the long run, no one benefits.

  3. Avatar marilynn says:

    I understand that nobody will engage in conversation with me here. I’ll ask a bunch of people whose parents were gamete donors to come and comment. Clearly the ONLY concern of this website and those who comment here is how people view those who raise them rather than how they feel about not being raised by their bio parents within their own bio families or how they feel about the fact that the people who raised them actually went out of their way to separate them from their bio families as if they were house pets or something. Look forward to your responses to their comments. Because it would be just really rude to ignore them.

  4. Avatar Anonymous IF says:

    “It was so good to hear that at the end of the day, DC families are really no different from those who are brought into this world through other means”.
    I should have added “not only brought into this world, but also brought together by other means”.
    It was also nice to hear that because people who become parents through these alternate means have to work so much harder to become parents than others that in some ways we are increasingly committed to our children’s well being-it does my heart good to hear that!

  5. Avatar Anonymous IF says:

    Just finished listening to the show, and all I can say is THANK YOU for this! The information here is and will be very helpful in my family building plans. It was so good to hear that at the end of the day, DC families are really no different from those who are brought into this world through other means. I always believed that to be so, but my faith has been shaken in that belief in recent times. This interview has been very restorative and hope-inspiring. Thanks again 🙂

    • I loved this interview as well. As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of Dr. Golombok’s research. Can’t wait to read her book which is coming out in March 2015. She’ll be on the show talking about it.

  6. Avatar marilynn says:

    A theme with studies about “How are Kids Conceived via Third Party Conception” are doing is the use of fertility industry terminology makes it difficult to state clearly what the point of the study is. In reality, what the study is trying to find out is whether it is emotionally traumatizing to have one or both bio parents be absent from the life of a person while they are growing up and also how a person feels knowing that their absent bio parent is classified as a donor, someone who allows other people to raise his or her offspring as an act of commerce or charity. The studies are not really about the impact methods of conception have on offspring. Methods of conception have nothing to do with who does or does not raise a person to adulthood.
    If a study wanted to track the outcomes of individuals conceived a certain way it would not matter who raised that individual. It would be reasonable to do a study on the impact of conception methods involving frozen sperm and eggs for instance posing the question if food looses some of its tastiness and nutrients when its frozen and thawed then do people conceived with thawed eggs and sperm loose health or smarts, etc by virtue of that method of conception? That method of conception would have the same physical impact on a person whether their parents were gamete donors or bonified child-raisers. So I think studies like the one in this post do suffer from the inability to clearly communicate that the goal of the study is not to study the outcome of a particular method of conception but rather to study the outcome of not being raised by one or both bio parents with the special circumstance of parental absence being owed to either charity or commerce and with the special circumstance of the people raising the child possibly having paid for or at least requested that the bio parent be absent as opposed to say people raised by persons who did not want the bio parent to be absent from their parental rolls and responsibilities (a single mother ditched by a one night stand or an adoptive parent would fall into the category of not having asked the absent parent to be absent.)
    Say for instance if a study wanted to track the outcome

    Clearly stated goals aside I think studies generally have a hard time correlating bad outcomes to a particular thing. I’m not fond of studies that say donor offspring are more likely to do drugs for instance because there are so many variables in life that its really impossible to substantiate such a claim. Studies that can tightly correlate cause and effect have a better chance in supporting claims that a particular thing like having a parent whose a donor somehow caused a particular character defect in them.

    My personal objections are based upon fairness and equality and in that regard it does not matter how people react to being treated unfairly, it’s still wrong to treat people unfairly and we should instead make efforts to begin treating people fairly whether they care or not. Reality is that people are quite resilient and can succeed under quite harsh and not ideal situations – but fairing well under bad conditions is not an endorsement of bad conditions, it’s just a testament to human resilience against all odds even when they are not getting what they clearly deserve.

  7. Avatar cb says:

    “”Does this research findings that the kids are about the same, but parents that haven’t told are more stressed surprise you?””

    No, because keeping a secret is very stressful.

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