Constructing Families and Kinship through Donor Insemination: Discourses, Practices, Relationships
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis explores the complex web of social relations created by the use of donor insemination (DI) in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The experiences of pursuing parenthood and creating a family using this method of assisted conception are contextualised through attention to the practices of Donor Insemination Programmes and the discourses used by parents, their families and health professionals. Sociologists and other social scientists have drawn attention to the social and cultural consequences of the fragmentation of biological/genetic, gestational and social parenting that follows the use of third party gametes. This thesis explores the implications of these procreative arrangements for the meanings attached to cultural concepts such as 'kinship', 'family', and 'parenthood'. Variation in the way these families respond to issues associated with the use of donor sperm in the conception of a child is also highlighted. The thesis also explores the dominant discourse in the New Zealand context of children's 'right' to know their genetic origins, and how this is played out in the perceptions and actions of health professionals, parents of children conceived by DI and their kin. The research is exploratory and qualitative, drawing on semi-structured interviews with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles of children conceived by DI, and with health professionals working in DI programmes. The inclusion of the perspectives of extended family members and health professionals constitutes a unique contribution to research on families with children conceived by DI. The secrecy, anonymity and confidentiality that have surrounded DI practices have long hindered the study of families with children conceived by DI. Despite a trend towards information-sharing in DI in New Zealand, the thesis shows that for these families, patterns of secrecy and disclosure are complex, variable and embedded in particular social and relational contexts.