Where's my daddy? Children who were born of sperm donors and raised by single moms ask about their fathers from as young as aged three. The major study is the first to analyze the emotions of sperm-donor kids.
Findings showed there are mixed feelings and unease among families of sperm-donor kids. For the study, Cambridge researchers compared data gathered from 51 single-mother and 52 two-parent households. The latter has at least one child, aged between the ages of 4 and 9, who was conceived using a donated sperm.
Both groups appeared to be "generally well-adjusted." The research team discovered that the two groups shared low level of child bullying in school as well as similar rates of contentment.
However, the single-mother households reported that the lack of a father has resulted in negative and mixed feelings among their children. In fact, only 4 percent of the sperm-donor kids felt a positive association about their state.
About 35 percent of the donor-conceived children reported having negative or mixed emotions. The rest of the women reported "neutral" feelings or they were "unsure" about how their children felt about their situation. Overall, findings showed that sperm-donor kids have been asking their mothers questions about their fathers from as young as 3 years old.
One of the study participants, a single mother of a 5-year-old boy, shared that the first time her child asked her a question, it was about his father. They were driving home from a swimming trip and the boy asked from the back of the car, "Mummy, why don't I have a daddy?"
According to the authors, the child participants were too young to be interviewed directly about their feelings on not having a father. However, the single mothers shared that children asked questions about their fathers at such a young age. Many of these mothers had mixed emotions about their life decision to become pregnant using a sperm donor.
Lead researcher Dr. Sophie Zadeh said that majority of the mothers would have chosen to have a traditional family set-up. It's not unexpected to find that some of the single mothers share how their children are having mixed or negative feelings about not having a father.
"They live in a world where a nuclear family is still largely the norm," added Zadeh.
Findings showed that sperm-donor kids raised by single mothers appeared to be "psychologically healthy." About 51 percent of these children showed no inclination to change the currents state of their household. Four- to nine-year-olds living in one-parent households seem to be doing well in general.
Zadeh added that these feelings can potentially change as the donor-conceived children grow older, especially during puberty when they attempt to establish their own identities.
Family Education Trust Director Norman Wells said he has some concerns about the welfare of sperm-donor kids raised by single mothers, adding that the new research confirms there are significant psychological challenges these children face.
The research is published in the Journal of Family Psychology.
Photo: Philippe Put | Flickr