Social Science & Medicine: Donor Conceived Offspring Conceive of the Donor: The Relevance of Age, Awareness, and Family Form
Rosanna Hertz, Margaret K. Nelson, Wendy Kramer
The published article is now up on the DSR’s Research page!
Rarely have donor conceived offspring been studied. Recently, it has become more common for parents to disclose the nature of conception to their offspring. This new development raises questions about the donor’s place in the offspring’s life and identity. Using surveys collected by the Donor Sibling Registry during a 15 week period from October 2009 to January 2010, the largest U.S. web-based registry, we found that donor offspring view the donor as a whole person, rather than as simple genetic material (he can know you; he has looks; he can teach you about yourself); they also believe that donor should act on his humanity (he should know about you and not remain an anonymous genetic contributor).
Other new issues that emerge from this research include the findings that offspring may want to control the decision about contacting their sperm donor in order to facilitate a bond between themselves and the donor that is separate from their relationship with their parents. They also wish to assure their parents that their natal families are primary and will not be disrupted. We discuss how the age at which offspring learned about their donor conception and their current age each make a difference in their responses to what they want from contact with their donor. Family form (heterosexual- two parent families and lesbian-two parent families) also affects donor terminology. The role of the genetic father is reconsidered in both types of families. Donor conceived offspring raised in heterosexual families discover that their natal father no longer carries biological information and he is relegated to being “only” a social father. Offspring raised by lesbian couples experience a dissipation of the family narrative that they have no father. The donor, an imagined father, offers clues to the offspring’s personal identity. The natal family is no longer the sole keeper of identity or ancestry.