Children born as a result of assisted reproduction technologies are generally well adjusted, survey results suggest.
However, children who lack a genetic link to one of the parents - by reason of donor insemination or egg donation - are unlikely to be told of the circumstances of their birth. On the other hand, most children born by in vitro fertilization (IVF) using egg and sperm from their actual parents are told.
Dr. Susan Golombok, from the University of Cambridge, UK and associates previously reported that when children were approximately 4-1/2 years old, egg donation was associated with greater parental psychological well-being compared with donor insemination, IVF and adoption - and none of the children exhibited psychological problems.
In the medical journal Fertility and Sterility, the group reports that they re-interviewed the same mother-child pairs when the children reached 12 years of age.
The extensive interviews of the mothers showed that in most cases, parenting skills did not differ significantly among the three groups - egg donation, donor insemination, or IVF.
However, egg-donation mothers showed significantly lower levels of sensitive responding to their children’s anxieties and fears than did donor-insemination mothers. Conversely, donor-insemination mothers tended to be more over-involved with their children than egg-donation mothers.
The authors note that the differences between these two factors were relatively small, suggesting that all the mothers were still functioning well. Otherwise, there appeared to be no significant differences in expressed warmth, supervision, and discipline.
When the children were questioned regarding their social and emotional development (school adjustment, peer relationships, and strengths and difficulties), there were no significant differences among groups - except that donor-insemination children were more likely than egg-donation children to be bullied.
Golombok’s team theorizes that “having a mother who is more likely to be over-involved might render children more vulnerable to negative reactions from their peers.”
The researchers found that only four of the 17 egg-donation children and two of the 35 donor-insemination children had been told of their donor origins. In contrast, 26 of the 34 IVF children had been informed.
The investigators suggest that parents who used egg donation or donor insemination don’t inform their offspring because they themselves experience more social stigma. These mothers also strongly believe that it would be harmful for their child to learn about their donor origins.
SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility, March 2006.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.