Donor sperm families are happy families, Australian researchers find

Children conceived from anonymous sperm donation belong to families which function just as well or even better than other families, Australian researchers claim. Professor Gab Kovacs, of Monash IVF, and colleagues published the results of a study of 79 families with sperm-donor children in the journal Human Reproduction. “This study further reassures us that families conceived with anonymous donor sperm do not function any differently from other family types,” they say.

This is a reassuring result for couples who have resorted to sperm donation, as questions have been raised about how well these families function. Some have argued that these families could be dysfunctional because the father and the child are not genetically related. Several reasons have put forward: the stigma of male infertility, a tendency to blame a child’s problems on the donor, or sometimes, over-compensation and over-protectiveness.

But Professor Kovacs and his colleagues found that “Overall… the absence of a genetic link between child and parent did not jeopardize a positive relationship.”

However, the study does have some drawbacks. It is small, it surveys only families with children between 5 and 13, and the sample may not be representative of DI families, as they were all patients of Professor Kovacs, a pioneer of Australian IVF.

One blot on the happy picture sketched in this study is that only 35% of the couples interviewed had told the child about the use of donor sperm. In fact, the whole study had to be designed to take into account parents’ uneasiness about possible disclosure. Professor Kovacs is now investigating the differences between parents who tell and parents who don’t. ''In a nutshell, I don't think it makes a difference, but there are some sociologists saying it's a terrible thing [not to disclose it],'' he told The Age.

This article is published by Michael Cook and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

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