Theses - Centre for Family Research


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  • ItemOpen Access
    21st Century Adoptive Families: A Longitudinal Study of Children Raised in Gay Father, Lesbian Mother and Heterosexual Parent Families
    (2020-06-01) McConnachie, Anja
    Findings are presented of a UK longitudinal study of adoptive families. At Phase 1, 41 gay father families, 40 lesbian mother families and 49 heterosexual parent families were visited when the children were aged between 3 and 9 years. At Phase 2, the response rate was 85%, with 33 gay father families, 35 lesbian mother families and 43 heterosexual parent families participating when the children were aged between 10 and 14 years. Standardized interview, observational, and questionnaire measures of parental mental health, parent-child relationships, and child psychological functioning were administered to parents, children, and teachers. Few differences were observed in parent mental health, the quality of parent-child relationships or in child psychological functioning. Where differences were identified, these reflected more positive functioning in gay father families compared to heterosexual parent families. In all family types, child adjustment problems significantly increased from Phase 1 (when the mean age of the children was 6 years) to Phase 2 (when the mean age of the children was 12 years). Moreover, a high proportion of children displayed adjustment problems at Phase 2: 31.6% scored above the cut-off for psychiatric disorder on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, a standardised questionnaire of children’s externalising and internalising problems, and 74.5% were rated by a psychiatrist as having some level of psychiatric concern. Though it is important to note that children generally displayed mixed attachment patterns (i.e. a combination of secure and insecure strategies), the dominant strategy for the majority of the sample (40.2%) was insecure-dismissing. Despite the high levels of adjustment problems and attachment insecurity, the children reported high levels of happiness and connectedness. Family processes, including parent mental health and parenting quality, and perceived heterosexism were associated with child psychological functioning. There was no evidence that children in gender matched families (i.e. boys in gay father families and girls in lesbian mother families) had better psychological functioning than children in gender mismatched families (i.e. girls in gay father families and boys in lesbian mother families). The findings contribute to adoption policy and practice, and to theoretical understanding of the role of parental gender in child development.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Psychological Well-Being, Maternal-Foetal Bonding and Experiences of Indian Surrogates
    (2018-01-30) Lamba, Nishtha
    Over the past two decades, India has become an international hub of cross-border surrogacy. The extreme economic and cultural differences between international couples seeking surrogacy and the surrogates themselves, clinics compromising health of surrogates for profit, the stigmatisation of surrogacy in India, and the constant surveillance of these women living in a ‘surrogate house’, have raised concerns regarding the potentially negative psychological impact of surrogacy on Indian surrogates. The primary aims of the thesis were (i) to conduct a longitudinal assessment of surrogates’ psychological problems (anxiety, depression and stress) from pregnancy until several months after relinquishing the baby to the intended parents, (ii) to examine the nature of the bond formed between surrogates and the unborn baby and establish whether this prenatal bond contributes to their psychological problems, and (iii) to explore the experiences of surrogates during and post-surrogacy. Fifty surrogates were compared with a matched group of 69 expectant mothers during pregnancy. Of these, 45 surrogates and 49 compairson group of mothers were followed up 4-6 months after the birth. All surrogates were hosting pregnancies for international intended parents and had at least one child of their own. Data were obtained using standardised questionnaires and in-depth interviews and were analysed using quantitative and qualitative methods. Indian surrogates were found to be more depressed than the comparison group of mothers, both during pregnancy and after the birth. However, giving up the newborn did not appear to add to surrogates’ levels of depression. There were no differences between the surrogates and the expectant mothers in anxiety or stress during either phase of the study. The examination of risk factors for psychological problems among the surrogates showed that anticipation of stigma, experiences of social humiliation and receiving insufficient support during pregnancy were associated with higher levels of depression following the birth. With respect to bonding with the unborn child, surrogates experienced lower levels of emotional bonding (e.g. they interacted less, and wondered less about, the foetus), but exhibited higher levels of instrumental bonding (e.g. they adopted better eating habits and avoided unhealthy practices during pregnancy), than women who were carrying their own babies. Contrary to concerns, greater bonding with the unborn child was not associated with increased psychological problems post-relinquishment. All surrogates were able to give up the child. Meeting the intended parents after the birth positively contributed towards surrogates’ satisfaction with relinquishment whereas meeting the baby did not. The qualitative findings on surrogates’ experiences showed that the majority lacked basic medical information regarding surrogacy pregnancy; hid surrogacy from most people; felt positive and supported at the surrogate house; lived in uncertainty regarding whether or not they would be allowed to meet the intended parents and the baby; and did not actually get to meet them. These findings have important implications for policy and practice on surrogacy in the Global South.