Study: Donor-Conceived Children More Likely to be Isolated, Delinquent

A new study released by the Commission on Parenthood’s Future has found that children conceived from a sperm donation are more likely than children raised by their biological parents to be isolated from their parents, to be delinquent, or have substance abuse problems.

In many cases the donor-conceived child also experienced more isolation and worry than adopted children.

25% of donor-conceived children strongly agreed that no one really understood them, compared to roughly 1/2 of this percentage of adopted children and roughly a 1/3 of this percentage of those raised by their biological parents.  Additionally, 47% of donor offspring agreed with the statement that “I worried that my mother might have lied to me about important matters when I was growing up.”

About 1/2 donor-conceived offspring agreed that when they saw friends with their biological fathers and mothers, it made them feel sad.  Only 1/5 of adopted individuals said so.  Similarly, more than 1/2 of the donor offspring agreed that it hurt to hear other people talk about their genealogical background.

10% of respondents said that at age 15 they thought of themselves as a “freak of nature” because of the artificial circumstances of their conception, while 13% said they felt like a “lab experiment.”  Almost 1/2 also said they were bothered that money was exchanged in order to conceive them.

Others worried about the chance that they might be attracted to someone who is biologically related to them.

Because one man can donate sperm many times, he can be the biological father of hundreds of children.  At least one sperm donor is confirmed to have more than 100 children. For this reason 46% of donor offspring agreed with the statement that when “I’m romantically attracted to someone I have worried that we could be unknowingly related.”

Similarly, fully 43% of donor offspring, compared to 15% of adopted people and just 6% of those raised by their biological parents, agreed that they felt “confused about who is a member of my family and who is not.”

Statistics regarding the delinquency of donor-conceived children involved similar patterns.

21% of donor-conceived children had trouble with the law before age 25, as opposed to 18% of adopted children and 11% of those raised by their biological parents.  Donor-conceived children are roughly twice as likely as biological children to have struggled with substance-abuse problems.

Additionally, married heterosexual parents raising donor-conceived offspring are more likely to divorce than the parents of adopted children. 27% of donor-conceived offspring report that their parents were divorced before the respondent was 16, compared to 14% of the parents of adopted children and 25% of biological parents.

This is surprising, according to the study, because most divorces occur early in marriage and donor conception generally occurs later in marriage, after parents have attempted to have children another way.  This “strongly suggests unusual, negative influences on the marriages of those who used a sperm donor to conceive their child,” according to the study.

The report was released under the Auspices of the Commission on Parenthood’s Future.  Elizabeth Marquardt, the lead co-investigator for the report, is director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.

Abt SRBI of New York City conducted the survey through Survey Sampling International.  A representative sample of 485 donor-conceived adults between the ages of 18 and 45 years of age were assembled, in addition to comparison groups of 563 similarly-aged people adopted as infants and 563 similarly-aged people who were raised by their biological parents.

The samples had been drawn from over 1 million households that had signed up to receive surveys.

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