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Would you think that donor conceived children of lesbian parents do better than typical families? Read this recent article...

In an interesting contrast to the study put out by the Institute for American Values, a study published in a recent issue of Pediatrics found that children of lesbian couples, conceived with donor sperm, do better than typical families.

According to the article on CNN, the 25-year study followed 78 couples who conceived using donor sperm. The mothers were interviewed during pregnancy or the donor-insemination process, and when the children were ages 2, 5, 10 and 17. The children were also interviewed four times as they matured.

When the children were 17, they took an online questionnaire, which looked at their psychological, social, and academic adjustment.

Researchers used the Child Behavior Checklist, which is a standard method of determining behavioral and social health in children. The children of the lesbian couples did better than average on the test, when compared to typical families. They scored higher in psychological well being, and had fewer behavioral problems.

As for why they did better (as opposed to doing just as well), it's not clear. It could be because these were well planned pregnancies, very much wanted, and the moms were older (and therefore more mature) than the average family.

As with any study, there is always the potential for bias, and this study was on the small side with 78 families. However, there are some key differences between this study and the study from the Institute for American Values (which was also on sperm donor-conceived children):

  • This study appeared in a peer reviewed, professional journal.
  • While funding for this study did come from a gay/lesbian advocacy group, according to the researchers, they had no part in the design or carrying out of the study.
  • Standard tools of assessment were used in evaluating the children, as opposed to questionnaires developed solely for the study's purpose.

This is certainly a topic that needs more research. But it does show that donor-conceived children are not necessarily at greater risk for psychological distress, as the study from the Institute for American Values would have you believe.

What are your thoughts? Please feel free to share in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!

Read this recent article and post your comments using the link below
http://infertility.about.com/b/2010/06/10/donor-conceived-children-of-lesbian-parents-do-better-than-typical-families.htm

Article 1 - by The Child Listener™

Do I tell my child he or she was born through artificial insemination using donor sperm?

So you’ve decided to start a family- found a sperm donor- got the second line on your pregnancy test (for the 4th time -you wanted to be really, really sure!) and are excitedly anticipating life as a family with your child. Wonderful!
But stop....let's take those rosy coloured spectacles off for just a second and take a 'real' look at life following the birth of your child- a child you decided to bring into the world- through sperm donor conception.  

Unfortunately – despite the enormous advances that have taken place in the field of assisted reproduction over the past quarter of a century research on the children born as a result of these procedures has lagged far behind. Although a surprisingly high number of children are not actually the biological children of both parents – whether through donor insemination or illicit ‘affair’ - it is only now, with an increased awareness of the need to consider children’s right, and the understanding of how child rearing practices affect their social and emotional development, that we are starting to more intelligently debate this issue. ‘It’s my decision and they don’t need to know’ is no longer an adequate response to the question of whether or not children should be told of their true heritage- or of the details of their conception.  

So, as ‘The Child Listener™’ I have written this initial article to start you thinking about the bigger issues. I urge you to make decisions based on what your child needs and wants- even if you don’t yet realise it, or want to think about it. This is something to start talking about even if your child hasn’t yet been born- or even conceived! Children are children. Adults are adults- we are all human- and all hope to be surrounded by people who treat us with love, kindness, respect and honesty. So, regardless of the intentions you have, and the reasons for your choices, if you start off with a lie you're inviting trouble. And it will always be something you have chosen to keep from your child. (and perhaps relatives and friends as well?)

I’m not going to tell you what to do- parenting is a personal journey - all I am asking is that you consider your child’s needs first – and your needs second.  I’m an impartial person who is speaking up for your child - that's my job, and mission in life; supporting children and their rights- and giving them a voice, even if they aren’t even born. This can be surprisingly easy! - all you need to do is start from day 1 understanding that parenting is ridiculously hard, you are going to mess up A LOT, however your child will love you whatever you do. And if they see you mess up and take ownership- and know that everything you are doing is with a spirit or honesty, love and kindness then they’ll respect you a heck of a lot more as well.

If you are single or part of a lesbian couple then it's fairly obvious you had 'a helping hand' from someone- and life becomes relatively easy as people have kind of guessed already how your child came into the world. However it’s also really important that you consciously work out how to talk about this- to everyone, not just your child- so that it becomes a positive experience- and something that enhances your child's self-image- rather than makes them feel lost, lonely, defensive and angry.

My main concern- and the reason for this article is that people are often so excited about being parents that the nitty gritty details get overlooked - like couples becoming so excited about the wedding they forget that the real thought should be going into preparing for the marriage. Your decisions every step of the way are- Id hope- based on what you believe is the right decision for you, your partner if you have one, and your child. However this is one of those issues that really needs careful consideration- and a decision made after looking at the research, seeing what children say about not being told, and talking to professional therapists and child psychologists. A quick decision before birth just isn’t good enough. A decision like this is huge- it's like not telling a child they are adopted- is it really your decision to make?- or is the truth something we owe our children, however hard it may seem at the time.

When parents make a decision not to tell their child how they were conceived they are deciding for the child that they don’t have the right to know or to deal with the truth. They might deliberately choose a sperm donor who looks like the male partner- thinking this will fool everyone- including the child. But you will always know. The donor will always know. You will always be lying to your child.   Whoever raises the child will be 'daddy'- that role is the hard part! A sperm donor is simply that- he will never be 'Daddy'. So why are we so afraid to tell the truth? Often it isn’t just the child that isn’t told openly, in an age appropriate and sensitive manner- and the right time for that child- often no-one else is told either. So a secret is created - with the people who love you. Why is this? Why make a decision to lie to your child- withholding information is lying, whichever way you look at it- a child you are presumably planning to encourage to themselves be honest and kind. The reasons for that are explored within a book I am currently writing- and I’d be interested to hear of your views and personal stories.
This issue isn’t about judgement – or blame- this is about being open about this topic- a topic that for centuries has been happening in secrecy. We are now in an era where the child’s rights are valued more than ever before- however we still have a long way to go. To be true to ourselves and our children we need to develop the confidence- and emotional resilience- to face the world with compassion, love and honesty.

As you will already realise, even if this is the first time we have 'met', honesty is something I firmly promote in all relationships- honesty that is kind, empathetic and constructive. So if you feel ready to take a risk and embrace this we can start thinking about how to share sensitive information with your child- and others- in a way that brings about a positive outcome.  Effective parenting – parenting that most effectively meets your child’s individual needs- is often far harder- it asks more of you physically and emotionally. The rewards however are amazing- and can change society.

I created a sperm donation connections website in 2004- ‘Free Sperm Donations Worldwide’ following the decline in available sperm- and because I knew how many men still wanted to donate, but on their terms. I also knew that many men were happy to donate for free- and that financial constraints were making life tough for many single women, lesbian and infertile couples who wanted to be parents! I believe that parenting should be something everyone should have a right to achieve- if they have the desire to be the best parent they can be, and to raise their child in an environment that will enable that child to develop to his or her full potential, and be happy and emotionally intelligent. The site has gone from strength to strength- with hundreds of successful pregnancies each year. Members often ask me when it is appropriate to start talking about sperm donation with their child- how to approach it- how much detail should be given etc. At the moment I don’t feel as though there is enough info and support out there for parents of children born through sperm donation and this article is my introduction to the topic. I will be bringing you other related articles in the coming months. The way in which we view and talk about this subject is something I would like to be a part of changing- our children deserve it. Be proud of your decision to bring your amazing child into the world, when other options were probably impossible or very limited. If you feel proud, your child will feel proud also. And if proud of this decision you will have no reason not to start talking about it openly – from the beginning. The decision of whether or not to tell you child should then become far clearer. Yes!

Em:-)

Emma www.The-Child-Listener.com

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Parents' attitudes to sperm donation - still some concerns
about being open

While I complete the rest of this article please consider this useful
info- source http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/19254.php

......In a study led by Dr Emma Lycett of the Family and
Child Psychology Research Centre of London's City University, researchers compared the emotions and experiences of parents
who favoured openness with their children with those who
were not keen on disclosure.

The Netherlands Study

The Dutch study involved 105 couples seeking a sperm donor for their first child. Sixty-one percent were heterosexuals and 39% were lesbian couples. All received counselling before treatment (which did not include upfront advice about the choice of donor) and data were collected on reasons for their choice. Sixty-three per cent of heterosexual couples and all but one of the lesbian couples chose identifiable donors.

"Motives for choosing an identifiable donor were the same for heterosexual and lesbian couples," said Dr Brewaeys. "The majority pointed to the right of the child to know its genetic origins. Although most parents did not want to be involved with the donor they decided it was not for them to block the child's access to donor information. Access to the donor's medical records was an important factor and some couples were also influenced by the fact that the majority of DI children in the future would have access to information because of the forthcoming legislation."

Dr Brewaeys said that for the lesbian couples, the absence of a male infertile partner spared them the stigma of infertility and their children would be informed early in their lives about their origins.

Among heterosexual couples, those opting for anonymous donors had a different profile from those wanting an identifiable donor. They were more likely to have a low socioeconomic status, difficulties coping with male infertility and an attitude of secrecy to the child. Only 12% had considered adoption. By contrast, among those opting for identifiable donors, the majority were better educated and better off financially, the men dealt better with their fertility problems and secrecy towards the child was not an option. About half had previously considered adoption or a known donor.

"The associations between donor choices, education level and infertility distress were intriguing," said Dr Brewaeys. "We believe these are strongly influenced by the sociocultural environment, with those choosing anonymity living more often in a context where other family values prevail. Male infertility and non genetic parenthood remains more of a taboo whereas childlessness is less accepted. Such values may have influenced the high levels of distress about infertility seen in most of the men and the wish not to tell the children about their genetic origins. However, the design of our study does not allow for firm conclusions: we need more sophisticated measures to disentangle the complex relationships that play a part."

She said that the findings, while they could not be generalised to the whole population, suggested that lesbian couples and more privileged heterosexual parents should fare well under the new laws, but couples wanting anonymous donation appeared more vulnerable. "It's essential that we make available pre-treatment counselling focused on individual motives and attitudes and that we continue the counselling after the birth. We also need to develop education campaigns to prevent further stigmatisation of male infertility, as increased tolerance may influence parents' openness. We also need large-scale follow-up studies investigating DI parents' and children's choices and concerns."

The UK study

UK researchers interviewed 46 families from a London clinic who had a 4 to 8-year old child conceived through DI. They found that 39% were inclined to openness and 61% were not. Thirteen per cent had already told their child, 26% intended to in the future, 43% had decided against telling their child and 17% were still uncertain.

They divided the parents into two groups - disclosers being those who had told their child or intended to and non-disclosers being those who were definitely not telling their child or were uncertain.

The two most important reasons the disclosers gave for telling their child were that they favoured openness to avoid accidental discovery and because they wanted to be honest. Almost half also said they believed the child had a right to know their genetic origins. The reaction of the children who had already been told (six couples whose children were aged between 3 and 5) was generally one either of curiosity or disinterest.

The two main reasons for the non-disclosers not to tell their child were that the parents felt there was no reason to tell, or to protect one or more family members, including the feelings of the child itself. Nearly 30% also felt that openness might affect the relationship between the father and child. Some feared the child might reject them with some fathers being concerned they would be rejected in favour of the biological father.

The researchers found that families with two or more siblings were less inclined to be open, possibly because a decision had been made when the first child was born and the climate was less inclined toward openness, and the parents wanted to remain consistent even if their own views had changed. Couples who had been together longer may also have made their decision long before the birth of the child when attitudes were more inclined to secrecy.

Dr Lycett said that although the sample of parents could not be considered representative of DI parents as a whole, the findings suggested a marked proportion of parents recognised the importance of sharing DI information with their child.

"It will be interesting to know what proportion of those parents who intend to tell the child actually follow through," said Dr Lycett. "An earlier European study of parents in this age group found that fewer than 10% had told their child by the time they reached early adolescence, which shows that intention is not necessarily followed by practice. However, in our most recent study of DI children born since the new millennium 46% of parents said that they intended to disclose the donor conception to the child, suggesting a change in attitudes to openness in recent years."

She said the findings will have practical implications for clinics in the provision of counselling before and after a child's birth, particularly for parents who were unsure about how and when to tell children and the impact and reactions they may face.

"The new legislation could mean a greater proportion of parents will be encouraged to be open, as has been the case in Sweden since anonymity was barred, but it remains to be seen how the new laws will affect parental attitudes towards disclosure in the future."

[1] Anonymous or identity-registered sperm donors? A study of Dutch recipients' choices. Human Reproduction. doi:10.1093/humrep/deh708.

[2] School-aged children of donor insemination: a study of parents' disclosure patterns. Human Reproduction. doi.10.1093/humrep703.

Notes:

1 PDF version of this press release and full embargoed text of the paper with complete results can be found from 09:00hrs London time Tuesday 25 January at: 3.oup.co.uk/eshre/press-release/jan052.pdf or is available from Margaret Willson.

2 Human Reproduction is a monthly journal of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). Please acknowledge Human Reproduction as a source. Dr Helen Beard, Managing Editor. Tel: 44-(0)-1-954-212-404 Email: beardh@humanreproduction.co.uk

3 ESHRE's website is: http://www.eshre.com

4 Abstracts of other papers in ESHRE's three journals: Human Reproduction, Molecular Human Reproduction & Human Reproduction Update can be accessed post embargo from http://www3.oup.co.uk/eshre Full text of papers available on request from Margaret Willson.

European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology


Where did I come from?
Answering kids' questions about donor eggs or sperm

Source

....People form families in many ways—through natural conception, through adoption and, more recently, through assisted reproductive technology (ART). Since the first birth of a child born by means of technology in the late 1970s, nearly 200,000 babies have been born, and 100 million procedures have been performed, according to an estimate by the International Committee for Monitoring ART. Many children have been born with the help of sperm or egg donation. The use of donor sperm as a treatment for male infertility in the United States was first reported in 1884, while the use of donor eggs was made possible in the United States more recently, in 1984. Psychology, however, has been lagging behind technology. Guidance for parents and follow-up of children born by means of a donor egg or sperm is just beginning. There's lots of expert opinion on how, what and when to tell most children where they come from, but expert opinion about conveying this information to children born as a result of egg or sperm donation is hard to find.

AOK spoke about this issue with Margot Weinshel, LCSW, RN, Clinical Instructor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the NYU Child Study Center and Membership Chair for the Mental Health Professional Group of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The interview was conducted by Anita Gurian, Ph.D., Executive Editor of AboutOurKids.org.

Q: To tell or not to tell is a choice that must be made by heterosexual parents of children born by means of a donor egg or sperm. How can parents decide?

A: Both psychological and medical experts advise parents to tell the child. There are several reasons for this opinion. First, every child has the right to know his/her genetic background, particularly since there have been many medical advances in identifying and curing genetically transmitted diseases. Second, keeping secrets represents a denial of reality and is likely to cause problems in family relationships. In addition, children's trust in their parents may be shaken, as they wonder if other secrets have also been kept from them.

Q: Isn't keeping it a secret better for the child? Why look for problems? This is the only family she has ever known, and no one else has to know the details of how she was born. Why tell if the child doesn't ask?

A: In the long run, not telling leads to more problems than telling. Telling early avoids the betrayal children may experience if they find out when they're older. The current opinion that the child has a right to know represents a shift from 20 years ago when people were advised not to tell.

Q: What led to this change?

A: At that time, the medical profession felt that since the mother became pregnant and gave birth to the baby, it was not necessary to tell. The current view advocates an open and honest attitude.

Many adults who were born as a result of sperm donation, have stated that they wished that they had been told the truth earlier, that the love and respect they have for their parents would not have been lessened. Some felt they had been betrayed because their parents had not been truthful and might have withheld other important information. Since egg donation is a relatively recent procedure, children born as a result of egg donation are still young and have not yet expressed their views on this issue.

Q: When do you tell a child? What's the best time?

A: Child development experts recommend that the child be told as early as possible. Even at the age of three children the idea can be planted, for example, by reading a story book. (One example: Mommy was your tummy big? http://www.lulu.com/content/365108). In this way, the story becomes part of the child's reality from an early age, and she won't be able to recall a time when she didn't know this aspect of her history.

Q: Isn't the concept hard for young children to understand?

A: Not if it's presented in simple language and is not too detailed. By age four or five, most children will ask questions about how babies are born, so parents can take advantage of their natural curiosity. Don't tell young children more than they can absorb or more than they're asking. Telling doesn't happen in just one session, so remain open for ongoing conversations as questions will keep changing. Young children usually don't regard the topic as a big deal and quickly move on to something else.

Q: How do you tell? How much information is appropriate?

A: Keep the child's developmental stage in mind. The specific information should be tailored to the age of the child in language he can understand. For young children, it's okay to use terms that may be somewhat inaccurate but familiar: for example, you might say tummy for uterus, or egg for ovum, and then correct it later on. Whenever possible both parents should tell the child together. Don't tell too much; just answer the child's questions. Keep the communication honest, open and age-appropriate. The underlying message should reflect the fact that the parent or parents needed help and some very nice person helped. It is recommended that the word donor be used to describe this person. Referring to the donor as the real or biological parent erroneously implies that the donor has a parental role in the family.

Q: What about telling an older child?

At the age of eight or nine a child is expanding his ability to tune in to the feelings of others and can understand why parents might need help to have a child. At this age children can understand about genetic connections and about sex and about egg or sperm donation. Make sure the child knows there was no sex between the parent and the donor. It's important to focus on the child's needs and feelings, not the parents'. Talk about the various ways that people form families, and that this is the way you chose, stressing the warm and loving feelings, not the technical process. Allow time for questions; it takes a while for the information to sink in. Then check in a few weeks, and talk again. Ongoing talks of this nature normalize the process and usually make the family feel closer.

With adolescents, keep several issues in mind: adolescents are focused on themselves, and issues of trust and identity are prominent. They're dealing with pubertal changes in their brains and in their hormonal systems. The immediate reaction of an adolescent can range from apathy to shock and anger. They may question why they haven't been told before. As adolescents struggle to establish their identity and their independence, new knowledge about their genetic inheritance requires considerable adjustment on their part.

Q: What about telling the child of single parents and gay and lesbian couples?

A: It's clear that a single parent cannot have a child without a partner and that two same-sex partners cannot create a biological child with each other, so the child must be told that a donor was involved. The time when a child asks about her mommy or daddy presents a natural opportunity. A number of books for children are available on this issue.

Q: What if the parents have other kids, either naturally or by adoption or by other forms of ART?

A: Parents should share the information with their children about how they chose to make a family at a time when they're all together or shortly thereafter. If there are differences, they should be explained. In this way, the facts are out in the open. Since cultural values have become more inclusive and accepting of the many ways that families are made, children are less likely to feel different than their peers.

Q: Is it ever a good idea not to tell?

A: Under certain circumstances it's not advisable to tell: a) if a child is not capable of understanding because of mental retardation or other condition, b) if parents are in a state of conflict, such as divorce, when telling might occur in a moment of anger, c) if the child is going through a particularly stressful time, and d) if the family is part of a culture in which assisted reproduction is a taboo and the child would be ostracized.

Q: Should other people be told?

A: Some people must be told. Physicians, for example, need to know a child's genetic background. It may also be advisable to tell teachers if the topic is likely to come up in class. It's usually advisable to inform family members and friends. The child may wish to talk with them at some point, and family members and friends often create a support network.

Some children may participate in the decision of who to tell. Around the age of eight a child can understand the difference between privacy (which is the individual's right not to divulge information) and secrecy (which is shameful). By this age a child can decide who to tell or to keep the information to herself if she prefers.

Q: How do parents' experiences in the process of infertility and in considering the help of a sperm or egg donor or other form of ART affect their decision to tell and the way they tell?

A: Anxiety and reluctance about telling are to be expected. Telling may reawaken earlier feelings of shame, blame, guilt and the emotional ups and downs regarding infertility. Parents have had to make hard choices and have had failures and disappointments in the processes involved. They have had to grieve for the fully genetic child they cannot have with each other and to adjust to the change in the future they imagined together. Despite the pain of re-experiencing these feelings, many parents report that they feel relieved after telling their child and that the family is stronger.

Q: Research thus far reports that children born as a result of sperm donation are doing well psychologically. When should people consult a mental health professional for guidance in making decisions about telling children, family, friends and others?

A: If parents are unsure or in conflict about deciding to disclose, need help with the specifics of how and when to tell their children, or tensions among family members are causing distress, consultation with a mental health professional with experience in this field can be helpful.

Helpful resources

Further information and bibliography for parents and children are available on the following sites:

www.dcnetwork.org presents information about telling and talking to children as well as other donor issues

American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) www.asrm.org presents multidisciplinary information in regard to education, advocacy and standards in the field of reproductive medicine. The ASRM Mental Health Professional Group deals with psychological issues in reproductive medicine

About the Author

Margot Weinshel, LCSW, RN, is a clinical instructor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine, on the teaching faculty of the Ackerman Institute for the Family; and in private practice in Manhattan. She is Membership Chair for the Mental Health Professional Group of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Ms. Weinshel is the co-founder of the Ackerman Institute's Infertility Project, co-author of Couple Therapy for Infertility (Guilford, 1999) and author of Surviving an Eating Disorder: Strategies for Families and Friends (Harper Collins, 1988, 1997). She has also co-authored chapters about infertility in Couples on the Fault Line, edited by Peggy Papp (Guilford, 2000) and Handbook of Primary Care Psychology, edited by Leonard J. Haas (Oxford University Press, 2004). Ms. Weinshel has published numerous articles and presents nationally and internationally.

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