Medical Research

Will Your Child Request Their Sperm Donor's Identity?

If you’re trying to conceive with the help of a sperm donor you have a number of critical decisions to make, namely should you use an open donor. Many intended parents wonder if their child will ultimately want information, or contact, with the donor. So how common is it for the adult offspring to seek out the donor and what exactly are they looking for? This month The Sperm Bank of California published what they’ve observed over a decade, how the process has unfolded and ultimately what the reception has been from the donors themselves.

Roughly 35% of offspring, once they turn 18, make inroads to learn their donor’s identity. The vast majority of those, over 93%, did so between their 18th and 21st birthday. Well over 50% of the offspring from single mother homes made the effort which stands in stark contrast to children of lesbian couples (37%) and heterosexual couples (23%), who were far less assertive.

A major issue with the comparison is that an unknown number of heterosexual families told their child they were conceived with donor sperm and so the interest of children from heterosexual couples, when informed, might be dramatically higher than 23%.

The data shows a daughter is over twice as likely to initiate the process as a son, and after isolating for a number of variables, gender was the strongest leading indicator of who would seek out more information.

Most children received their donor’s contact information within a year, but the time required for the sperm bank to deliver the information varied dramatically. On the other hand, the offspring’s intentions were generally pretty uniform, if not slightly amorphous: to learn “about what the donor was like as a person – his physique, psychology…rather than a list of facts”. Surprisingly, less than 10% sought out medical or health information, which is interesting because this has been a major rallying cry of advocates in the known donor movement.

80% of offspring had “low”, or “no”, expectations from their donor after receiving his information. On the other hand, the vast majority of donors, upwards of 90%, were open to having contact and nearly a quarter said they were prepared to meet the offspring in-person.

Like all studies, this one suffers from a list of limitations, namely it was conducted with a population tracked by a single bank and the absolute size of the study was modest with a sample size of 256. A major weakness was simply not being able to correct for which offspring of heterosexual couples were informed of their status, and since the information collected was from 2001 – 2011, attitudes and motivations of both offspring and donors may well have changed.

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