Sperm donor children are fine without fathers, says Cambridge University – Telegraph.co.uk

But some family charities, sociologists and religious leaders have warned that deliberately depriving a child of its father is unethical and could be psychologically damaging in the long term.

Dr Sophie Zadeh, of the University of Cambridge, questioned mothers, children and teachers to find out how well-adjusted the children of donor conceptions were compared with those whose parents were in a couple. All the youngsters were aged between four and nine.

“There seems to be a stereotype of single women seeking sperm donation as anti-men or as not having carefully considered the needs of heir future children. Our research would suggest that is not the case,” said Dr Zadeh.

“Our analyses revealed no significant differences between single mothers and parented mothers in terms of parenting quality.

“For this measure we looked at things like mother’s expressions of warmth, their enjoyment of quality of play and the quality of mother child interaction.

“We also looked at conflict between mothers and their children and how much they criticised their children and we found no significant differences.”

The number of single British women seeking sperm has risen by more than 50 per cent since 2000 and around 2,500 women a year now conceive through donor sperm. The first NHS funded sperm bank was set up in Birmingham in 2012, although many women use private banks, often overseas.

But the growing trend has attracted criticism. Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who once chaired the ethics committee of Britain’s fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has warned that ‘father-hunger’ was behind much of Britain’s delinquency.

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A study by the University of Canterbury in Christchurch found that teenage girls raised without fathers were more likely to have depression, behavioural problems and drop out of school. The University of Melbourne showed that boys are more prone to delinquency if they lack a father figure and McGill University suggested that growing up without a father can permanently alter the brain — causing children to be more aggressive and angry.

However despite concluding that the children in the study had not been damaged, Dr Zadeh admitted that the absence of a father was a subject frequently fraught up by youngsters.

“They do seem to be thinking about, questioning and commenting about the absence of a father in their families,” said Dr Zadeh.

“We have reports as young as two asking about lack of father in the home.”

All the single mothers also expressed some concern about their use of donor insemination to build their families, and were particularly worried about lack of a father.

However she team concluded that the absence of a father was not damaging.

“Single women using sperm donation have been focus of press attention and political debate in the UK at least,” added Dr Zadeh.

“In terms of mothers’ psychological functioning we found no differences between the two family types in terms of anxiety, depression and parenting stress.

“In children’s psychological well-being we found not differences between family types in terms of social, or emotional problems.”

A second study from Cambridge looked at the psychological well-being of adolescents conceived under different circumstances: naturally, via surrogacy, or through egg donation.

Data were gathered from 31 sperm donor families, 28 egg donor families, 29 surrogacy families and 57 families with naturally-conceived children.

Questionnaires were used to examine parental psychological well-being, parental and family functioning, and the psychological adjustment of the teens themselves.

The initial findings suggest that the adolescents were not psychologically damaged nor were there increased family strains among the children born through collaborative reproduction methods.

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Baltimore.