Surrogacy Families in The UK: Parenting and Psychological adjustment of surrogacy children
Presented by Vasanti Jadva (U. of Cambridge) ; Discussant : Virginie Rozee (Ined)
In the UK, the prevalence of both traditional surrogacy (where the gestating surrogate’s own egg is fertilised) and gestational surrogacy (where the surrogate does not use her egg) has increased over the years. The UK Longitudinal Study of Assisted Reproduction Families has been following up parents with a child born using surrogacy in comparison with children born through egg donation, sperm donation and natural conception (I.e. with no medical assistance). Families were first seen when the child was aged one year and subsequent data were collected when the child was age, two, three, seven, ten and most recently at age 14 years. At each time point parents were interviewed using semi-structured interviews and were administered standardised tests to evaluate their psychological wellbeing, marital quality, parenting stress and the child’s development. At the last 3 phases of the study the children themselves were interviewed and asked to complete questionnaires. Video-taped observations were also conduced of parent-child interaction.
This longitudinal study has found few differences in parents’ psychological wellbeing, the quality of parent–child relationships and child outcomes during the pre-school years between surrogacy families compared to families that had a child conceived by natural conception, suggesting that families in which a mother lacks a gestational connection to the child are similar to those where she does not. When the families were seen when their child was aged 7, children born using surrogacy showed higher adjustment problems (as measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire), in comparison to children born using gamete donation. However, it is important to note that all children were found to score within the normal range showing that they were not experiencing any psychological problems. Furthermore, this difference disappeared by the time the children were ten years of age. No differences were found in the quality of parenting between surrogacy, gamete donation and natural conception families at age 10 or at the recent phase of age 14. At age 14, intending mothers reported greater acceptance of their adolescent children, showed less negative parenting, and reported fewer problems in family relationships when compared to mothers in families created using gamete donation. These more positive findings could be due to surrogacy parents being highly committed parents given their difficult and controversial journey to parenthood. The surrogacy children in the longitudinal study were all aware of the circumstances of their birth and at the age of 14 most reported feeling indifferent or unconcerned about being born in this way.
Dr Vasanti Jadva is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge. Her research examines the psychological well-being and experiences of individuals involved in third party reproduction, specifically, families created using egg donation, sperm donation and surrogacy, surrogates and their families and egg and sperm donors. She is an Affiliated Lecturer at the Department of Psychology and a member of the National Gamete Donation Trust’s advisory council.