Donor conception and its impact on family constructs – the views and experiences of donor-conceived persons
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The increasing number of people seeking and accessing assisted reproductive technologies, and the resultant emergence of changing family forms, demand an understanding of the needs and experiences of donor-conceived persons and their families. Because the history of donor conception is a history of secrecy, the needs and experiences of these people and their families have largely gone unexplored. This exploratory study aimed to investigate the experiences and perceptions of donor-conceived persons in relation to family, and to examine what family has come to mean to them. It asks in what ways their donor conception shaped or impacted on their personal family constructs, defined here as one’s conceptualisation of family (that is, who and what makes a family to this particular individual and why). Twenty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with fifteen female participants and six male participants, aged between 19-46 years (mean = 30 years). All but one were born to heterosexual couples experiencing male-factor infertility and all were New Zealand born and raised. The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. The following themes were identified as issues of salience for donor-conceived peoples’ experiences and construct of family: “secrets and lies” verses “all out in the open” (disclosure and communication); positioning the donor (constructing meaning; conceptualising family; locating the donor), and thinking about family-building (views on assisted reproduction, and thinking about fertility). An overarching theme of empowerment verses disempowerment was identified, indicating that the ability to form self and family constructs based on accurate information about one’s genetic roots is an empowering experience, while lack of such information can be experienced as disempowering.