A longitudinal study of families formed through reproductive donation: Parent-adolescent relationships and adolescent adjustment at age 14.


The aim of the 6th phase of this longitudinal study was to establish whether children born through assisted reproduction involving reproductive donation were at risk for psychological problems following the transition to adolescence at age 14 and, if so, to examine the nature of these problems and the mechanisms involved. Eighty-seven families formed through reproductive donation, including 32 donor insemination families, 27 egg donation families, and 28 surrogacy families, were compared with 54 natural conception families. Standardized interviews, questionnaires, and observational assessments of the quality of parent-adolescent relationships and adolescent adjustment were administered to mothers, adolescents, and teachers. The mothers in surrogacy families showed less negative parenting and reported greater acceptance of their adolescent children and fewer problems in family relationships as a whole compared with gamete donation mothers. In addition, less positive relationships were found between mothers and adolescents in egg donation families than in donor insemination families as rated by both mothers and adolescents. There were no differences between family types for the adolescents themselves in terms of adjustment problems, psychological well-being, and self-esteem. Longitudinal analyses showed no differences between family types in negative parenting from age 7 to age 14, and a weaker association between negative parenting and adjustment difficulties for gamete donation than natural conception and surrogacy families. The findings suggest that the absence of a genetic link between mothers and their children is associated with less positive mother-adolescent relationships whereas the absence of a gestational link does not have an adverse effect.