Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Developing the Relationship

I’ve been looking at the relationships that have developed between offspring and their biological parents (or what is often incorrectly termed their donor) recently. I find this interesting as it shows a window into the future as this phenomenon becomes more prevalent due to the use of identity release donors and genetic genealogy. In particular I have been trying to look at what perhaps might be classed as successful reunions or should that be termed successful union as they were never united in physical consciousness previously.
Just with anything like this there appears to be a rainbow of experiences and emotions. I have met a few where there is a distinct acknowledgment that they are father and child, while others describe their relationship as more friendship based and others perhaps more distant. I’d like to focus on the friendship based relationship as I see this as becoming more the norm for “successful unions” even though I am a firm believer that it is a father-child or mother-child relationship based solely on correct “original” linguistic and biological classification.
I see the friendship relationship as being favoured for a few reasons:
1) To acknowledge a parental, father-child or mother-child relationship has the potential to create pain as it is an acknowledgement of what was separated and what has been deprived of both parties. It also has the potential to cause anguish for the non-biological parent as they may fear that their role in the child’s life has been diminished even when the child does not feel that way at all. As such the friendship model is protective to the triad.
2) As we mature our relationships with our parents often change as well. Many people feel that their relationships with their parents become more friendship based as they become adults, move away from home and start families of their own. Most people will only be meeting once the child is no-longer a child (they have reached the age of maturity and are now allowed to access identifying information). It would be difficult to create a fatherly or motherly relationship with the offspring as they are no longer a child who also does not necessarily need that parental style relationship anymore.
3) When we look at reunions for other disenfranchised groups such as adoptees, the relationships are often but not always either constrained or strained. It is difficult to form those deep meaningful familial relationships when you do not grow up with each other and spend years in each others company. Going further than friends will always be problematic due to the lack of these shared lifetime experiences.
While I cannot speak for those from single parent households or same-sex households. The communication I have had with other offspring (of which the vast majority are from heterosexual married households due to the prior prevalence of DC being used in this scenario) is that the majority are not seeking another father or mother because they have those already in their lives or because they are adults now themselves. So it may be that the friendship relationship would be the best case outcome for most offspring.
I wonder how many donors fear connecting with their biological children because they do not have time or the vested interest in what they may view as raising another child when that may in fact not be what the other party is seeking? Perhaps this is another misconception? Although as we see increasing use of known donors who do have contact with these children before the age of maturity, this fear may be more grounded than for previous eras. Especially when some donors are finding out that they have 20, 50 or more than 100 offspring.
It will be interesting to see how many fathers/mothers (donors) and their “donated offspring,” become friends due to the shared looks, behaviour and interests.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Nuclear Family Argument

There is much debate currently about a child’s right to know and be raised by their biological parents, in particular over the nuclear family construct debate. Many people opposed to the above notion claim that the nuclear familial construct is no longer the norm and that alternative familial arrangements have long been established through the history of mankind. The so called “It takes a village to raise a child,” argument.

So lets take a look at the it takes a village to raise a child situation. Typically in history, families were constructed of an extended family. This would have been very typical during hunter gathering times, as a larger family or perhaps even co-operating families would have had a greater chance of being able to hunt and gather resources and therefore survive. In this situation the core of the nuclear family still exists in that there would have been a natural father and mother which would have still been important to the child and the child would have had constant access to them in this situation.

There is excellent scientific evidence of the existence of the nuclear family prior to modern civilisation (in middle Stone Age times). These nuclear families, or at least the importance of these biological connections were recognised at least 5000 years ago, perhaps even longer as it is difficult to get archaeological evidence before that date and written records certainly don’t exist.

When man became more civilised due to farming and herding which allowed for the accumulation of food, towns and cities were able to flourish, allowing for the village construct to occur. Perhaps it could be argued that the village construct is a function of modern or civilised man and should therefore be the default position. Extended families certainly existed in this instance, leading to the “it takes a village to raise a child” debate. I am yet to see evidence that even in the village scenario where many people are involved in the raising of the child that the biological connection was devalued or obsolete. Once again the core of a nuclear family (the biological parents and children) still exists within the village scenario.

If the notion of biological parentage is unimportant then I would postulate that mankind would have evolved to a position where the child is not dependant on the parents or adults for so long. In a non-biological focused familial construct there would be no impetus for the adults to invest so much time and resources in the raising of offspring of other people. From an individual perspective there is nothing to be gained from investing so much time in another person’s child as opposed to your own. The selfish DNA argument. It is only in modern civilised society where resources are much more freely available that it has been possible and socially or morally desirable to invest in the raising of another persons child. Even still if that was the position then no-one would be driven to have children of their own, and donor conception would not exist.

Biological connections have been important to mankind for at least 5000 years, and given the bonds seen in Chimpanzee society between biological familial members we could argue that the biological connection has been important ever since we existed. (Chimps use extended families however biological connections are often closer as evident by biologicals taking the caring role of infants when the mother dies.) That would be my evolutionary view. Alternatively in the biblical sense, if we are to take a Christian held view, Jesus was the son of God, not the son Joseph (the Immaculate Conception) showing the importance of where we come from.

So while I can see the point of the argument that it takes a village to raise a child in regard to others having importance in a child’s life, this position does not appear to negate the importance of biological connections or the nuclear family and therefore should not be used as a means to justify severance of these connections. This is not a statement to devalue alternative family arrangements rather that the importance of the biological connection and the nuclear family is difficult to negate with the village argument.