How Do Children Feel About Being Donor-Conceived?
When it comes to donor-conceived children and whether they are psychologically affected by discovering their origins or not, you’ve probably heard everything and its contrary. There are lots of studies on this matter that reach different conclusions, as well as a multitude of charities, politicians, religious leaders or sociologists that hold varying opinions and positions. However, what seems clear is that certain attitudes or choices may influence how these children react to the fact they are the result of an egg or sperm donation.
What do donor-conceived children feel about being the result of a donation?Personality plays an essential role in how donor-conceived people react to the news of their being born as the result of a donation. Another important factor is how the parents feel about having started a family via a donation. If they are happy and confident about their choice, their child is more likely to be accepting of their origins. Letting the children know that they are donor-conceived early, when they are little, can also prove significant.
Parents who make the choice to keep this information from their children or family, because, for instance, they do not feel confident in their choice or fear how others might react, can end up causing more problems for their child. According to a number of studies, it seems that finding out late (during adolescence or adulthood) that one is donor-conceived makes it tougher to accept. One reason for this is that it can lead to a general sense of mistrust between the child and their parents.
How to tell children that they are donor-conceived?What stands out is the importance of telling children about their origins when they are little (under 5). Revealing this information early is, in the end, easier for everyone involved. Growing up knowing where they come from will help children to accept their origins and to build their identity. Moreover, little children don’t care about genetic and blood connections. What’s important is that they feel loved by their parents and that they grow up in a stable environment. It's best to keep the explanations simple and adapted to the age and personality of the child, and to prepare for their questions in advance.
As for teenagers or adults, they are more likely to respond to this new information with shock. They might struggle more to accept their origins and might even feel betrayed.
Additionally, although you don’t have to tell everyone if you don’t want to, sharing the information with your close family and friends is definitely advisable. This not only makes it easier for you to seek support from them but also creates an environment based on trust and honesty for your child.
How much to reveal about the donor?If you opt or have opted for a known donor, your child may be able to meet their biological parent or even to build a relationship with them, depending on the agreement you made with your donor. If you have had your baby via an anonymous donor, through a fertility clinic or a sperm bank, your child will have the right to access non-identifying information about their donor once they reach the age of 16. They can apply for identifying information (name, age, address) when they are 18. They can also find out if they have any donor siblings.
If you’re planning to have a baby via sperm donation, it’s important that you take the time to decide whether you prefer to opt for a known or an anonymous donor. If you’re looking for a known donor, you need also to consider whether you want your donor to be involved in your child’s upbringing and, if so, to what extent.
How do donor-conceived children raised without a father react?According to a Cambridge University study, donor-conceived children raised by single mothers do not suffer any greater psychological or emotional issues than those conceived and raised in a more traditional way.
To come to this conclusion, Dr. Sophie Zadeh of Cambridge University questioned 51 single mothers who decided to make use of sperm donation to have a child, as well as their children (all aged from 4 to 9) and their teachers.
The team did not find any significant differences regarding parenting between families created via sperm donation and more traditional family units. Moreover, Dr. Zadeh concludes that being fatherless doesn’t necessarily lead to more depression, social or emotional troubles.