That Adoption Study: Sameness (With Difference to Come)

So as I noted at the end of last week, I have come across a very rich and recent study by the Evan B. Donaldson Institute called “Openness in Adoption:  From Secrecy and Stigma to Knowledge and Connections.”   It’s particularly timely, given the discussion of what the history of adoption can teach us about anonymity and gamete donors, but it provides answers to some questions I have long wondered about.

The sameness/difference I refer to in the title of this post refers to the relationship of adoption to use of third-party gametes.  For me, this is where the conversation started.   But of course, adoption (and what we have learned about it) is important in its own right, too.

As I look at the report, I thought the first thing I’d do was to note some of the things that strike me and seem to me as equally pertinent to the third-party gamete questions.  Later I can talk about differences.

One (possibly obvious?) starting point.  Adoption has a history.  It has changed over time.  This, it seems to me, is a basic point of sameness.   ART has a history and has changed over time.   (I’d actually go even further–the whole idea of family has a history and has changed over time.  There is not timeless and universal understanding.  But let us set that to one side.)

The origins of secrecy in adoption and ART are similar.  Secrecy in adoption grew out of concern for children.   It was motivated by a desire to protect children from the stigma of illegitimacy.  (That’s on page 6.)   I think that secrecy in ART has a similar root–although the concern isn’t illegitimacy.   Nevertheless, it was motivated by a desire to protect children from stigma.     (At the same time, secrecy also protected parents from the stigma of infertility in both settings.)

In terms of current practice, adoptions now exist along a continuum from completely closed (secret) to completely open.   You can  make this very statement about third-party reproduction.  People choose all sorts of arrangements.   But many/most adoptions are at least somewhat open and access to information, while not perfect, is far better than it was thirty years ago.

What caused adoption practice to change?  The report identifies a variety of interlocking factors.  I think it is useful to consider whether the same factors influence practices around use of third-party gametes.  To the extent one can agree that openess is better. this is an important exploration.

For instance, one identified factor is the decline is stigmatization of illegitimacy.   The decline of stigmatization meant that parents could consider allowing their children to be identified as illegitimate in origin.   Similarly, the decline in shame around infertility allows parents to consider allowing themselves to be identified as infertile.   What compares to the decline of stigma around illegitimacy for the child conceived with third-party gametes?

Not all adoptive parents are infertile.  Some adoptive parents are single–potentially fertile, but without a mate.   Some adoptive parents are same-sex couples.    The inclusion of more adoptive parents from these sectors means that adoption is less rigidly associated with traditional infertility in the first place.   In the same way, the rising participation of single parents and same-sex couples in ART changes perceptions of ART.

The rise of single parents and same-sex couples as parents has particular implications for both adoption and use of third-party gametes.   These parents are necessarily visible as parents who chose a different route to parenthood.   In a sense, these parents cannot pass as ordinary biologically related parents.   Their child’s origin in either adoption or ART cannot be hidden.    Perhaps these parents are particularly well-positioned to show others different ways forward.


38 responses to “That Adoption Study: Sameness (With Difference to Come)

  1. Gamete donation most closely compares to black or grey market adoptions done under the table usually for nothing more than the ability to make it look as if the adopted child was born to the adopting party because the real parents identities are never recorded and the adopting parties fill out the birth record claiming to have delivered the child at home rather than in a hospital. The shady fraudulent elements of adoption are alive and well in the practice of gamete donation in case anyone was missing those days, don’t wax nostalgic.

    • Gamete donation only compares to that if you think that gametes compare pretty closely to children. If you start there then giving up gametes is like giving up a child. If you don’t start there, then you don’t get to that analogy. And (no suprise here) I don’t start there.

      • Then why pray tel did you create this post to discuss the sameness and difference between what its like being the offspring of a donor vs. being the offspring of someone who donated gametes?

        So you don’t see any similarity? Then why don’t you close up shop and call it a night? Move along, nothing to see here?

        • whether your the offspring of a donor or the offspring of a person that went through the adoption process, your still without that person in your daily life, they made a choice not to be involved in your life and all of those people’s relatives are also not in your life. Those things are similar without assigning any deeper importance to them. The donor and the person giving up the child both opt to have offspring that other people raise. The donor more so because they meant to have offspring they were not planning to raise.

          • It’s true that you are without your genetic ancestor and you may lack information about that person and this would be a point of similarity. But I think that for some people the idea that a woman was pregnant with you for nine months and gave birth to you and than gave you up for adoption might seem different than the idea that a woman provided an egg so that someone else could get pregnant and give birth to you. I know that some people (like you, I think) will say that these are very similar situations but others (like me) will say that they are different. And I don’t think anyone has actually had both experiences, have they?

            There are other differences (though I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.) At least in theory women do not get pregnant in order to have a child to place for adoption. Adoption is the best way forward in an difficult situation. I know many women who have decided to donate eggs when they didn’t have to. They weren’t under particular time pressure (like knowing your due date is approaching.) I wonder there are any studies comparing the experience of egg donors and birth mothers. do you know?

            • It makes no difference how one FEELS about the facts. Unlike people opinions are not created equally and never is that more evident than when one opinion is heavy with logic and fact and the other is light and flighty with emotion and feelings that can’t easily be articulated. When the only fact to support an opinion is that its a fact some people feel that way its a sure bet that one opinon is right and the other one is wrong.

              A person either is or is not raised by his or her biological parents. If they are not raised by their biological parents it means their biological parents were prevented from raising them or they chose not to raise them and there are various and sundry reasons and forces that could make that all happen. People can feel however they want to about that, in the end there is a person who is underage and requires care and biological parents are in a position where they need to sht or get off the pot – they have to figure out how their offspring are going to get raised unless they just drop the ball and abandon them with little or no assurance that anyone will pick up their slack. Gamete donation does little more than that because the gamete donor trusts the company who is selling their gametes to make sure their offspring go to a good home. Society does not generally trust people to make good decisions about child placement when they are being paid by the people that want the child. There is no disinterested 3rd party independantly making sure these children are not just being given to whoever pays for them. Just because they pay early and have the embryo implanted in them does not make that woman a mother. All she is doing is developing someone else’s film. She can ruin the roll if she’s not careful, but what is delivered at fotomat is not going to be pictures of anyone she knows. So she can frame them and put them on the wall and name them and give them a back story but they are not her friends and they are not her family. She just developed their roll of film for them

              • It’s no surprise that we disagree, I know, but I figured I’d be clear about it anyway.

                I do think how people feel is important. It feels one way to be lied to, it feels a different way to be told the truth. Knowing you are adopted vs. not knowing you are adopted is very important, even though the truth that you are adopted is the same in either case. Feeling comfortable and confident with a role as an adoptive parent is different from feeling ashamed and insecure in that role, and the difference in feeling can make a real difference in the life of your child even if the fact that you are an adopted parent is unchanging.

                I do not think being pregnant and giving birth is the same as or can fairly be analogized to developing a role of film. I’m not even going to start with the ways in which that analogy seems problematic to me rignt now because it will surely drag us way off in that direction, but I know we’ve talked about this before on the blog, sometimes in the context of surrogacy (if others want to poke around using that tag.)

        • I didn’t say i didn’t see any similarities, but I see that my comment obscured that. Indeed I do see some similarities–that’s the whole point of this particular post. I think, for example, the issues about openness and honesty are similar. I also think there are similar questions raised when you talk about having access to information–when and how that happens, say.

          But (as the title suggests) I do also think there are differences. I think a woman giving up a child for adoption is different from a woman giving up an egg. I do understand that not everyone will agree with me on that.

          This isn’t the sum total of either the sameness or the difference–I just want to be clear that I do think there aspects of both. Sorry if my earlier comment confused that.

          • There are egg donors who give their consent to allow their eggs to be studied as they are, without giving their consent to allow their eggs to be fertilized, without giving their consent to allow other women to gestate their embryos and without giving their consent to allow someone to raise their offspring. Those are egg donors.

            The women your talking about are egg donors who also gave up their offspring. They gave up their offspring with every bit as much intent as a woman giving her child up for adoption, more even because she never had any intention of raising them though she did have the intention of creating them. There are a variety of other paths she could have chosen but she wanted to create offspring and it was her choice not to raise them. She signs a consent form allowing other people to raise her offspring – she did not have to allow them to do that. She was the parent with the authority to determine what would happen to her offspring. Because she is responsible for creating them its her decision what happens to them.

            Do you see that a woman can be an egg donor and also give up her child? Do you see that a woman can be an egg donor without giving up the right to raise her child? Do you see that a woman can bee an egg donor without giving anyone the right to create offspring for her to worry about raising? Donating an egg is not the same as donating a child but many women, especially those we talk aobut here do both. Its time we admit it and see where that takes us.

            If we are talking about women who meant to donate their eggs for reproductive purposes unrelated to stem cell research and for the purpose of helping infertile couples realize their dream of “building a family”

            • I think it is valid and useful to distinguish between women who provide eggs for research and women who provide eggs for others to use for reproduction, but I wouldn’t distinguish between them by saying that one gives up an egg while the other gives up her offspring or her child. I would not equate the action of women in the latter group (those who give up their eggs for use by others for reproduction) with giving up a child for adoption. I think this reflects the same difference in view we have come to before–and it is really about the meaning or importance of DNA.

              Now in saying that, I do not deny that women who give up children for adoption and women who offer eggs to others for reproduction do both sign consent forms and in some ways they do end up in the same place–as you say, in both instances another person (or people) ends up raising the offspring of the woman. Those are similarities. The first (consent form) doesn’t seem terribly significant to me, but the second (offspring) might be. The similarity does not erase the difference, though. And ultimately perhaps each of us has her own opinion about which is more important or about the relative importance of the similarities and the differences.

              I do not think that at the time the woman signs the egg consent form she is a parent and so I don’t think she is a parent with the authority to determine what happens to her offspring. I do see that the same woman could be an egg donor at one time in her life and also give up a child for adoption at another time in her life. I don’t think she does both things at the same time.

              I do not generally mean to discuss women who provide eggs for research (rather than for reproduction) on this blog, but you are right that they exist.

              • “I do not think that at the time the woman signs the egg consent form she is a parent and so I don’t think she is a parent with the authority to determine what happens to her offspring.”

                So a pregnant woman that signs paperwork before giving birth agreeing to let someone else raise her child is likewise not a parent with the authority to determine what happens to her offspring, right?

                It is possible to contract to perform a service, if and when something else occurs. If the washing machine breaks within the first year, Maytag will send a repairman, the fee for that is built into the price of the machine. If the donors offspring are ever born she agrees not to contact them or seek visitation or seek custody. The fee for that is built into the price of the egg.

                • Right–a pregnant woman who signs paperwork before giving birth is not a parent. She is always (in this country) afforded some time (it may be adequate time, but that’s a different discussion) revoke or ratify her decision. She cannot make the decision a parent could make–to give the child up–before the child is born. She can certainly say that this is what she plans to do and she can have paperwork ready. But that’s as far as it goes.

                  I agree that egg pricing (or sperm pricing) probably does (and maybe should) reflect the conditions placed on the use of the egg/sperm. I think some places offer provider’s willing to be contacted a premium, in fact, which is consistent with this idea. Certainly some things you can contract for in advance, in the event they occur.

  2. Let’s not wave the stigma of male infertility goodbye just yet. Many DC children are still not told because it’s much easier to conceal DC than adoption these days (women no longer stay out of the public eye while pragnant, quite the opposite, really).

    A large part of the reason I was never told I was donor conceived was to hide my social father’s infertility. The official family explanation of why it took my parents 12 years to conceive was that my mother had had fertility issues. She whispered to me when I was 18 that my father had a very low sperm count ad that she was just fine. But he wasn’t supposed to know I knew even this much. No one was supposed to know this.

    • Excellent point about pregnancy being so public. I’ve just finished a couple of fine novels in which the whole time around birth is shrouded by extended wedding trips and women who are indeed out of the public eye for months. Not likley to happen these days and so is concealing adoption really an option for most people? Not to mention the increasing number of cross-racial adoptions and adoptions by same-sex couples and single people.

      I think you are right that male infertility (probably female infertility too?) is still shrouded in shame. For a man to be infertile might be to fail at a basic task of maleness. And it does seem clear that shame is part of what leads to secrecy. Indeed, I’d assume that for some (many) people the pain of shame can outweigh what they know to be the risks of secrecy.

      I guess this takes me to two further thoughts. First–some people might change the outcome of the calculation as the likelihood of maintaining secrecy diminishes. I mean–the more likely you think it is that your child will find out, the more likely you are to tell them. I do not mean to suggest that everyone will change their behavior. But some people probably will. And I think there is little doubt that maintaining secrecy will be harder and harder as more and more genetic information is used in modern medicine.

      Second, it would seem that diminishing shame around male infertility would be a good thing. If you diminish shame, then more people will tell–this is one of the things we could learn from looking at adoption. That’s a good concrete topic to think about–how do we (as a culture) diminish shame around infertility? I have thoughts about that and I will try to pull them together for a post soon.

      One last thing–male infertility as a reason for use of third-party sperm is increasingly infrequent. ICSI has vastly increased the ability to use sperm from a male partner. So increasingly the people using third party sperm are single women and lesbian couples–who are not likely to have any shame issues around male infertility.

      • Good points. If I can add a Neoplatonically influenced, completely mythical and scientifically unfounded bias that I’ve observed: male infertility is worse because men are straightforward and simple; their seed is their male essence and the expression of their virility.

        Women’s bodies, on the other hand, are naturally more chaotic and complex and there is much less shame in requiring outside help for regulating them (infertility, periods, pregnancy, birth – so many things that can go wrong). Women are sometimes even able to prove the superiority of their minds by requesting help with subduing their recalcitrant bodies – opting for an epidural in birth and/or scheduling an induction/elective c-section can often be seen as proof of the superiority of mind over matter in intelligent women.

        It’s a dualistic thing we have in the West. It’s not going away quickly and easily. It’s been here at least since the Renaissance.

        • That’s a really interesting way to think about it. I love the idea that women can prove the superiority of their minds by controlling the chaotic system they inhabit. I wish I were more confident it was true–I worry that instead women’s minds are seen as diminished by the placement in the chaotic system.

          I wonder, too, about whether male infertility is more debilitating because providing sperm is the essential function of a father–as in “to father a child.” Thus, if you cannot provide sperm, you cannot be a father, end of story, full stop. By contrast mothering is a series of ongoing actions and you can do a lot of them whether you’ve given birth or not, whether you’ve provided the eggs or not. Thus, even if you cannot provide eggs you can still be a mother. I do not mean to say this is the way things have to be and I am over-simplifying because I think in reality there is much more to being a father than providing sperm. But even over-simplifications can have a grain of truth to them.

          • Actually, I find the idea “that women can prove the superiority of their minds by controlling the chaotic system they inhabit” (you phrased it so well) unsettling, because it confirms the dualism and their place in the chaotic system.

            I’d like to see this dualism finally seen for what it is – an old and fun myth, but only a myth.

            I agree it’s much easier to think of yourself as the mother if you “only” use an egg donor, but carry the child, give birth, breastfeed, and so on.

            • This is probably getting a little far afield (and possibly slightly incoherent), but it does sometimes seem to me that the general view of women’s bodies sets up at the very least a tension. Women’s bodies are full of raging hormones that make us irrational from time to time, perhaps much of the time. We ooze messy liquids and (some of us) experience being inhabited by an alien creature (by which I mean a developing fetus). It’s all messy and irrational. Men’s bodies don’t seem to have these features–or we don’t talk about them/think about them that way. And to the extent in our age we prize the mind and rationality, men don’t have a nature they have to resist in the same way. But for women to take a full place in our society we have to demonstrate that we are rational and can overcome our nature.

  3. *pragnant -> pregnant; *ad -> and

  4. I would argue that if you still have issues identifying yourself as infertile then you should assess your ability to be a good parent and allow your non-genetic child to be who they are born to be, instead applying your fear of disclosure of your status of infertility to mold your child to be a mini-me and stop from him from just being me.

    Adoption has long focused on adoptive parents getting past their own internal grief before moving to adoption (approx 80% of AP’s have fertility issues) – not all do get past their own issues – but it is part of the adoption process they must go through in order to qualify – that is missing in ART.

    I cringe at the thought that the child must become the poster child to make it okay for adults – the logic is backwards. Adults must be the ones who are big enough to own their own issues and not wait until children have made it okay. I have seen this logic used in transracial adoption as a means to do away with racism.

    Adults need to be the adults and have the integrity to understand when they are using self-deception to avoid facing the consequences of their own actions.

    If you accept ART as a valid normal method of creating your family then you must own it and be comfortable within your own skin and publicly – only then will society also accept it as valid.

    • These are terrific insights to offer. Neither adoption nor ART cure infertility, right? If that’s an important thing in your life, then you really have to deal with it.

      This leads me to think about the varieties of infertility or maybe how we think about infertility. Some people can point to a medically verifiable infertility issue. But (as I understand it, and I could be wrong) some heterosexual couples cannot do that–they can only point to the fact that they haven’t conceived a child. That’s a different sort of infertility, I think. Then there are single people. They are infertile in the sense that they cannot reproduce just as they are, but there’s no puzzling medical mystery. If there’s an issue for them, it’s about not finding a mate with whom they want to have children. (I don’t mean to suggest that all single parents are in this category.) And then there are same-sex couples–again, infertile in the sense that they cannot reproduce just as they are.

      For each of these groups dealing with infertility and then choosing adoption/ART as a path forward will be different, I would think. For single people and same-sex couples it is much easier to accept ART or adoption as the normal route to parenthood. It’s also much more obvious that you’ve done one of these two things.

      Seems like there is much to think about there.

    • so right

  5. You are correct – neither cure infertility. I do agree that the feelings would be different with a known cause vs unknown and the rest. The problems come in when you haven’t accepted and dealt with your feelings and found peace – the child will and does pay the price. Children are very perceptive.

    I think at the most basic part – procreation is the desire to create a mini-me or mini-us. If you haven’t made your peace then that ghost child will be what you expect your ART or Adopted child to live up to – that may be unconscious but ever present. Of course the standard disclaimer not all are the same or the experiences will be different.

    Part of being at peace with it is being okay to talk about it and be open about it. That gets focused on in adoption – with ART I think it would be much more hit and miss.

    I agree that single parents or gay or lesbian parents have be okay with it up front and frankly that’s a good thing for the child.

  6. You’ve raised an issue that I haven’t really explored much but should–the desire to create a mini-me or a mini-us. It seems to me that if that’s the main reason a person is having a child (no matter how they are having it) there may be trouble ahead. That’s part of why the heavy emphasis on DNA and on the importance of the genetic connection bugs me, I think.

    An alternative is to have children because you want the experience of raising a child, because you want to have that relationship and undertake that work. If that’s what motivates you then you might choose to have a genetically related child but if that didn’t work out for any reason, you’d think about what else you could do.

    Of course almost all of us operate with mixed motives much of the time, so it’s rarely so clean and neat.

    • see now here I agree with you. Unfortunately many people do adopt because they want to be parents and not because they want to raise a child whose parents can’t. If the people who adopt just stayed themselves and did not take on any new titles and the kids they adopted just stayed themselves and didn’t get new parents and a new name, everything would be just fine. The people adopting would come out way ahead with the kid they loved exactly as is even though they already have parents and even though they already have a name. It must be really sad to think that the people raising you would not have wanted you unless they could change your name and take away your identity as your parents child and rename you. Seriously that must be a really kind of sad feeling that nobody would take care of you unless they got to say you were their child. Now that is an opinion based on feeling alone.

    • I’ve thought about it a bit, as my social father has narcissistic personality disorder and even his own biological child would have been unacceptable to him the moment she stopped being a “mini me”.

      Here are some thoughts I had on the issue:

      It’s very complex, in my view, and the issues of narcissism and parenting non-biological children are not unrelated, pardon the pun.

  7. Here’s another thought – well, more like a bunch of personal feelings – on the issue:

    • Really interesting thoughts–thanks. I have added your blog to my blog roll (which I hope is okay). Perhaps this comment would have been better there, but it doesn’t seem to me that the experience you relate necessarily means that one cannot be a fully committed parent (or whatever we want to call it) without the genetic connection between parent and child. In your experience, understanding that your social father didn’t have that and that he was narcessistic enabled you to more fully embrace your own (genetic) children. But if a person starts from a different place, then perhaps the genetic connection won’t have the same meaning?

      I think on some level our ideas and beliefs about parenthood must be informed by our own experiences of being a child. I don’t mean for a moment to say that we replicate our parent/child relationships, though, or even that we respond to them in some predictable way. All I mean is that those experiences are impossible to ignore as each of us forms our own ideas about what it means to be a parent.

  8. Of course it’s okay.

    I didn’t mean to imply that one can’t be a good parent to a child not genetically one’s own. I just expressed the opinion that the degree of one’s narcissism and the ability to truly and unconditionally accept others’ children seem to be in reverse proportion to each other. And many, if not most, prospective parents have at least a smidgen of narcissism – most humans do.

    Of course. I don’t hide my experiences. I “confess” my opinions are influenced by them.

    • That makes a lot of sense. Though I think you can be somewhat narcissitic about shaping a child that isn’t genetically yours as well. (Perhaps this is easier if you don’t think genetics is destiny.) You can still imagine the child as putty in your hands, to be shaped in your own image. Right until the little dears refuse to bend to your will. Sigh.

  9. My parent's donor is my father

    There is something called the “Cinderella Effect” that is an unfortuante reality of non-biological parenting. It cannot be legalized/legislated away. It is a part of (some/many) our nature. Alana wrote a wonderful piece in Public Discourse on this subject as a whole. Have you read it Julie (all contributors to this debate)? If not you should: ”


    By Topic


    By Date


    By Author


    From the Editor


    Ryan T. Anderson

    Public Discourse:
    Ethics, Law, and
    the Common Good



    Reproductive Technologies and the Quest for Immortality
    by Alana S. Newman
    March 1, 2012

    “The fertility industry is booming because we desire genetic and memetic immortality—the preservation and reproduction of our bodies and ways of life. ”

    • I don’t think the Cinderella effect really connects up to the rest of the substance here. As I recall (and I confess both that I don’t quite remember and that I’m not an expert) the Cinderella effect is about step-families. (Hence Cinderella–an allusion to the evil step-mother.) It is also controversial and not fully accepted, so I don’t mean to suggest that I agree with it. But in any event, I don’t think you can draw an equivilance between a family with a donor conceived child and a step-family. The order in which things happen is typically different. In a step-family a person has a child and so there is a parent/child relationship. Then a new adult enters into the picture and that person’s initial relationship is with the parent. In most donor conceived families the relationship between the two adults comes first and then they decide together to bring a child into the relationship. I think most people in fields like family counselling would say that this difference can matter.

      I’m not entirely sure I understand Alana’s point about memetic immortality. To the extent she offers Da Vinci as someone who has achieved it, it’s clearly not dependent on raising children. I’m a teacher. I hope my students learn something from me. In that way to I attain a form of memetic immortality? Maybe I’m not understanding this–because this form of immortality seems to me to have little to do with what I think she means by genetic immortality, but she tends to speak of them together. (Obviously I could and perhaps should and perhaps will engage in that discussion over there, but I’m a bit short of time.)

      Having said that, I think I am uneasy with the generalizations about why people have children. I know the view that it is all aobut the selfish gene, but I know so many people for whom that isn’t what’s going on. Having children is an incredibly demanding and an incredibly rewarding experience. It is by far the most amazing endeavor I’ve ever tried. I put more in and get more back. I don’t think about my legacy much. I think about my life and how I have lived this day. And this day, with my children (whose piano lessons are almost over) matters. Because this is what we have, I guess.

      I think an excessive focus on DNA tends to obscure this. It’s the same way people say what makes a person a parent is there genetic code rather than the lived experience of a relationship with a child. I suppose it’s circular–the more you focus on DNA the more you can see having children as being about immortality. But what if you don’t focus on DNA? That shifts the whole frame.

      Dinner time.

  10. My parent's donor is my father

    Well, I think it is more difficult for a non-bio related male who has taken on the intended parent/father role to relate equally to a child conceived from a “donor” and his wife. Over the 10+ years I’ve been involved with this issue, it has been common to hear adult “donor” conceived say they felt a distance with their (intended) father (anectotal I know) And from the My Daddy’s Name is Donor study (it’s worth considering at least) – From the 15 major finding summary: (
    “4. Donor offspring are more likely to have experienced divorce or
    multiple family transitions in their families of origin.
    The married heterosexual parents of the donor offspring are unusually
    likely to have divorced, with 27 percent of donor offspring reporting
    that their parents divorced before the respondent was age 16, compared
    to 14 percent of those who were adopted and 25 percent of those raised by
    their biological parents. (The comparison between the parents of donor offspring and those of the adopted is apt, because in both cases the parents
    would likely have turned to donor conception or adoption later in their
    marriages, when marriages on average are more stable.) See Figure 4. (p. 117)
    Overall, 44 percent of donor offspring experienced one or more
    “family transitions” between their birth and age 16, compared to 22 percent
    of the adopted, and 35 percent of those raised by their biological parents.
    See Figure 3a. (p. 116)”
    So it is plausible that “donor conceived” raised by married hetero parents MIGHT experience Cinderella Effect and are similar to step parented children.

    • My parent's donor is my father

      Wanted to add that in order to lessen the Cinderella Effect – avoid the step parenting relationship – I suspect many hetero married couples choose anonymous donors and don’t tell their children. It is much easier (on the surface) for an intended father to freely love a child, without feeling threatened, who has been fully separated (abandoned?) by their biological father and reduce that person as nothing more than a contributor of dna. But from personal experience I can say for certain that it caused deeper inner conflicts for my dad (and my mom and my bio-father).

      • Add my anecdotal experience to your collection of stories. It can’t be denied that this happens. There are too many families who have endured this dynamic to ignore. We have to stop imagining only ideal couples as intended parents (I wanted to say “fairy tale” but some ARE actually just like fairy tale evil stepparents).

      • I don’t know about the Cinderella effect, but it is surely true that many hetero couples (married or not) who use third-party sperm are tempted not to tell and many do not tell. This leads to no end of trouble and you won’t find me defending that practice even if I might understand why the choice is a tempting one.

        All the more reason, though, that I think it’s important to remember that users of third-party sperm are increasingly single women and lesbian couples. In this instance there’s pretty much no way not to tell. And you avoid the complication of the social father/biological father tension. (I won’t say there are no issues.) The research I’ve seen also shows that these families are far more likely to seek contact with the sperm provider and to provide contact earlier in their kids lives.

        • I’d rather see single or married lesbian women having children with sperm donors than straight married women any day, however what are you guys doing about the other secret? I mean your still part of the reason why the donor is not in the child’s life and chose a situation where you helped someone hide his identity from his offspring. How do ya’ll explain to the child that its to their benefit that the identity of their paternal relatives is being concealed from them? How do ya’ll respond if they ask “why was it necessary to make my birth record not a health record?” What if they ask would you still have loved me if your name was not put on my birth certificate? Would you still have loved me if you did not get called mom on the record? I have those same questions for straight couples. You know that. But still how about that? Secrecy is hardly over in the life of donor offspring raised by lesbians.

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