Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The kids are alright? The behavioural health of children born through surrogacy

Children born using surrogacy may face greater adjustment problems than their peers. 

This seems to be the conclusion of a longitudinal study conducted by Professor Susan Golombok, of the Centre for Family Research at Cambridge University. 

Writing in June’s issue of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Professor Golombok observed:   

Surrogacy children showed higher levels of adjustment problems than children conceived by gamete donation at age 7. 

Signs of adjustment problems could be behaviour problems, such as aggressive or antisocial behaviour, or emotional problems, such as anxiety or depression.

The research was more positive about other types of assisted reproduction, including IVF with donated eggs and sperm.

The sample breakdown for Professor Golombok's study
The study involved thirty families who had used a surrogate, thirty-one who had used egg donation, thirty-five who had used donor sperm, and fifty-three who had conceived naturally.

Professor Golombok acknowledged that the results had some limitations because of the relatively small sample size.  She also conceded it was possible that reproductive donation mothers might have skimmed over some of their children’s difficulties.

Parenting was assessed at age three by a standardised interview and by questionnaire measures of anxiety, depression, and marital quality.  The children’s adjustment was assessed at ages 3, 7, and 10 using a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).

The study found that candour and openness about the mechanism of their conception did not necessarily make the children’s lives easier, at least at age 7.  Parents who had kept their child’s origins secret showed elevated levels of distress.  However, maternal distress had a more negative impact on children who were aware of their origins.

Remarking on this, Professor Golombok said: 

“… contrary to expectations, it was children who were aware of the circumstances of their birth and whose mothers were distressed who showed greater adjustment difficulties, conceivably because they felt less secure when faced with their mother’s emotional problems.

She concluded that the absence of a gestational connection between parents and their child may be more problematic for children than the absence of a genetic relationship.” 

As surrogacy becomes increasingly popular as an alternative for parents unable to conceive naturally, studies like Professor Golombok’s will prove vital to ensure that the particular needs of the children born are identified and properly met.

No comments:

Post a Comment