Integrating donor conception into identity development: adolescents in fatherless families

Adolescents who were securely attached to their mothers were more accepting of their donor conception than insecurely attached adolescents, suggesting that quality of mother-child relationships influences feelings about donor conception.


Jenna Slutsky, M.A., Vasanti Jadva, Ph.D., Tabitha Freeman, Ph.D., Sherina Persaud, M.A., Miriam Steele, Ph.D., Howard Steele, Ph.D., Wendy Kramer, B.A., Susan Golombok, Ph.D.



To study the processes by which donor-conceived children incorporate donor conception into their subjective sense of identity.




Family homes.


Nineteen donor-conceived adolescents.


Administration of an interview and questionnaire.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

The mother-child relationship was assessed through the Friends and Family Interview, a semistructured interview designed to assess adolescents' security of attachment in terms of secure-autonomous, insecure-dismissive, insecure-preoccupied, and insecure-disorganized attachment patterns. The Donor Conception Identity Questionnaire assessed adolescents' thoughts and feelings about donor conception, yielding two factors: [1] curiosity about donor conception and [2] avoidance of donor conception.


Statistically significant associations were found between the Curiosity scale and the secure-autonomous and insecure-dismissing attachment ratings. Adolescents with secure-autonomous attachment patterns were more interested in exploring donor conception whereas those with insecure-dismissing patterns were less likely to express curiosity. Insecure-disorganized attachment ratings were statistically significantly correlated with the Avoidance scale, indicating higher levels of negative feelings about donor conception.


The results of this study of the influence of parent-child relationships on thoughts and feelings about donor conception in adolescence suggest that the valence of the parent-child relationship influences adolescents' appraisal of their donor conception within the context of their growing sense of identity.

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