What makes a family? Donor-conceived children and parenthood
At Cryos’ Donor Sperm Symposium 2017, Professor Veerle Provoost gave an interesting speech about what can be learned from studying alternative families – for example, what makes a parent and how do donor-conceived children perceive of their family.
Veerle Provoost is a Professor and Postdoctoral Researcher at the Bioethics Institute of Ghent University in Ghent, Belgium. She is a researcher in the field of genetic and social parenthood in the context of donor conception.
In this video interview, Veerle Provoost answers interesting questions about parenthood and sperm donation, and shares the most surprising findings from her studies about alternative families:
Extracts from the video interview with Veerle Provoost
“What we can learn from studying alternative families, and especially also donor-conceived children, is the way they relate to their views of family and what views they have about their family. But also what needs and questions they have, and how do they deal, for instance, with the information they receive about being donor-conceived.
What makes a family is a very interesting question and a very difficult one to answer. We also have to think about what makes, for instance, a parent, and there are many many reasons why somebody can be a parent; genetic link; you can be a parent by intention and not share a genetic link; you can have a social link with your child.
The most surprising finding I have come across while studying these families were actually two things. First, the parents, when they talk about their link with the child, they would say that a genetic link is not important, that the parent who has a genetic link and the parent who does not have this link, that they are equally as much a parent (…). But when you talk about the children, then, in these interviews, something funny happens, because then they find it all of a sudden very important that the children would have full genetic links. So, I think (…) they have a different way of looking at families, but they are still very much related to the views within society, they cannot take themselves away from that view.”
Do donor-conceived children think about sperm donors as family?
If you want to learn more about Veerle Provoost’s studies, you can watch her interesting TED-talk (video below): Do kids think of sperm donors as family? In this talk, Veerle Provoost shares stories of how parents and donor-conceived children together create their own family narratives:
You might also want to watch the video interview with Professor Susan Golombok where she shares findings from her extensive research on the psychological wellbeing of donor children. You can also read this blog post were 22-year-old Emma talks about growing up as a donor child.