Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Blood Is Not Thicker Than Water When It Comes To Family

By Stephanie M. Caballero
British Psychological Society

Parents who have children via embryo donation or adoption have just as good relationships with their children as parents who are genetically related to their children. But more than half of all embryo donation families try to keep the origins of their children's birth a secret.

This is the finding of Dr Fiona MacCallum and Sarah Keeley of the University of Warwick. They presented their results on Friday 31 August 2007, at the British Psychological Society's Developmental Section Annual Conference at the University of Plymouth.

Dr MacCallum's research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, explores the importance of the experience of pregnancy and childbirth on the quality of parenting. They questioned 17 embryo donation families with a child aged between five and nine and compared them with 24 adoptive families and 29 families with genetically related IVF children.

The researchers found the quality of parenting and the formation of good parent-child relationships did not depend on a genetic link between parent and child, nor was the experience of pregnancy and childbirth vital for parents to bond with their child - as is the case with donated embryos.

In fact, embryo donation and adoptive families showed equally positive parenting. For example, the parents expressed high levels of warmth and affection towards their children and enjoying spending time and playing with their child. Dr MacCallum said: "All of these families show high quality parenting and all children from these families show normal social and emotional development."

The only difference between the three types of family was that embryo donation families were more likely to keep the method of family creation a secret from their child - with only 41 per cent saying they planned to tell their children how they were conceived compared to 89 per cent of IVF families. All of the adoptive families said they would reveal their child's history.

This could have family implications because as part of the draft Human Tissues and Embryos Bill, the government have recommended that children born from donated sperm or eggs should have this fact recorded on their birth certificates.

Dr MacCallum said: "The views of the donor conception parents are at odds with proposed moves towards openness. If new legislation enforces disclosure through birth certificates, information and support about how to discuss this issue with children must be readily available to all such families."

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