Researchers from the University of Cambridge have found that more than one third of children born through IVF to single mothers have said they have mixed or negative feelings about the lack of a father figure in their lives.
The research showed that 39% of children between four and nine years old felt ‘neutral’ about the lack of a father figure in their lives while 27% felt ‘mixed’ and 8% felt ‘negative’ about their home situation.
15% of women registered for IVF in the UK are classed as ‘solo mothers’ meaning they do not have a partner with 952 of them successfully conceiving a child through IVF in 2013.
According to the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority this figure has seen a rise of 226% since 2006 which they say is contributed to the growing number of career-driven women who worry about not finding a partner.
The study was presented at the annual conference of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology where one mother spoke about her experience with her five-year-old son.
“I remember the first time he asked me a question, was when he was about three.
“We were coming home from swimming and this little voice in the back of the car said, ‘Mummy, why don’t I have a daddy?’.”
Another mother of a seven-year-old girl said:
“They don’t talk about the donor – they talk about a father figure and say: biological father. They haven’t made that connection.”
However, the research did reveal there was advantages for children of ‘solo mothers’ over those who were single through traditional means, as the children did not witness any marital conflict or the effects of a relationship breakdown.
“They grow up without a father from the start and, for those conceived by donor insemination at a fertility clinic, do not know the identity of their biological father.
“This makes them distinct from most other children of single mothers, whose fathers may be absent but whose identity is known.”
In contrast to some of the findings, 50% of children said they did not want their family situation to change.
Speaking to The Telegraph, one of the study researchers, Sophie Zadeh said:
“This is the first study that has directly asked children born of sperm donation to single mothers about their experiences.
"The vast majority did not mention the absence of father or their donor conception. However, in some cases these children will be the only ones in their class without a father in the home, and from mothers' reports, it is clear that most children do ask about the absence of a father.
"Most of the mums would have preferred a traditional family set-up, and it's not surprising that some of the mothers reported that their children feel negatively or have mixed feelings about the absence of a father, because they live in a world where a nuclear family is still largely the norm.
“But we did find in terms of psychological adjustment they seem to be doing well, and these thoughts and feelings were not conveyed by children in their own reports to researchers.”