Donor offspring suffer when truth comes out

October 13, 2000

Adults conceived by donor insemination often suffer a collapse of trust in their family and struggle to deal with their new identity if they discover the truth about their origins, a study has found.

In the first research of its kind, psychologists found that keeping secret the genetic origins of donor offspring, as the overwhelming majority of parents do, can have a serious impact on their psychological wellbeing.

The study, by Amanda Turner and Adrian Coyle at Surrey University, will be used to devise counselling strategies and could also have a bearing on whether parents of children born after pre-implantation genetic screening, such as Adam Nash, should explain the circumstances surrounding their origin.

In the United Kingdom, 1,321 babies conceived by donor insemination were born last year. Clinics offering the service advise parents to consider whether to reveal the truth to their children, though most are thought to keep it secret. However, Dr Turner warned: "It was the withholding of information about their conception that had the most impact on the adults in this study, in part because of its effect on their whole family."

The psychologists discussed the experiences of 16 adult donor offspring, aged between 26 and 55, in the UK, North America and Australia, who knew they were the product of donor insemination.

The research, published in the journal Human Reproduction, reveals that while individual responses differed, there was commonly family mistrust, poor self-perception and frustration at the impossibility of discovering their biological fathers.

Many said they were shocked when they discovered their status as donor offspring. One woman reported she only learnt after her mother died. "I felt my entire life was based on a lie and I was furious with my mother for dying with this secret," she said.

In some cases, the revelation helped explain unusual behaviour on the part of the parents and a few offspring were relieved to find they were not related to a father they were never close to. Most said they had tried to trace their biological fathers and had been upset when they failed.


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride