Sperm donor offspring fare worse

A new study has been released by the Commission on Parenthood’s Future, showing that young adults conceived by sperm donors generally fair more poorly than adopted children or those raised by their biological parents.

The authors — which include Professor Norval Glenn of the University of Texas at Austin — surveyed more than 1 million American households and sampled 18 to 45-year-olds, 563 who were raised by their biological parents, 562 who were adopted as infants, and 485 who were conceived via sperm donation.

Writing in Slate, two of the study’s authors — including one who was herself conceived through a sperm donation — say they were surprised by the results:

While adoption is often the center of controversy, it turns out that sperm donation raises a host of different but equally complex — and sometimes troubling — issues. Two-thirds of adult donor offspring agree with the statement “My sperm donor is half of who I am.” Nearly half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception. More than half say that when they see someone who resembles them, they wonder if they are related. About two-thirds affirm the right of donor offspring to know the truth about their origins.

Regardless of socioeconomic status, donor offspring are twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report problems with the law before age 25. They are more than twice as likely to report having struggled with substance abuse. And they are about 1.5 times as likely to report depression or other mental health problems.

The authors say that donor offspring, as a group, are “hurting more, feeling more confused, and feeling more isolated from their families” than adoptees.

I’m not sure why these results are surprising. It is commonly acknowledged that adoption is a blessing that arises out of a tragedy. Everyone knows that ideally, it is in a child’s best interests to be raised in a nurturing home by the two people who conceived him or her. When that’s not possible, adoption is a way to heal that wound.

But for the offspring of sperm donors, there is no acknowledgement of anything like this, no recognition of what helps a child form his identity, no accommodation for the grief that natually occurs when one has “lost” a biological parent.

I join the authors in hoping this new study will help force the state to acknowledege in law that all children have a right to know the identity of their biological parents.

(HT: Bill C.)



Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in "Catholic Digest," "Faith & Family," "National Catholic Register," "Our Sunday Visitor," "Urbanite," "Baltimore Eats," and Godspy.com. Zo

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