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The Quality of Parenting in Different Family Structures

Family Law Solicitor discusses the quality of parenting in different Family Structures.

A couple of months ago one of my colleagues wrote an opinion piece for The Huffington Post entitled The Fragility of Gay Equality, An Australian Warning.

That piece looked at retrograde steps underway in Queensland to roll back legal rights afforded to same sex couples. Prior to February 2010, all surrogacy was illegal in Queensland.

Reforms introduced by the then Labour Government changed that, allowing altruistic surrogacy for single parents and for couples, be they heterosexual or homosexual. The misleadingly named Liberal / National Coalition Government elected in March 2012 has made it plain it has no truck for this family equality lark. It announced in July 2012 that the surrogacy reforms would be undone, but only for single and same-sex parents.

It will soon become illegal again for them to enter into a surrogacy arrangement within Queensland, punishable by up to three years in gaol. Lest it be thought that only same-sex parents were being targeted, the Government has also trumpeted its intention to remove the right of same-sex couples to enter civil unions. A few months on, and the dismantling of the rather modest steps taken in Queensland towards equality across.

Different Family Models continues apace. In a sop to same-sex parents who have already accessed altruistic surrogacy, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has confirmed, in a letter written earlier this month to a LGBTI Community Advocate; the ban will not be retrospective.

Newman wrote, “I can confirm that any amendments to the Act will not affect those couples who have already filed an application or have completed a surrogacy parenting arrangement.”

He continued, without a hint of irony “This government recognises the importance of maintaining the legal protection of both the children and their parents in these circumstances.”

Continuing with the theme of irony, the Queensland Government’s discriminatory zeal flies in the face of such empirical evidence there is about the quality of parenting in different family structures. The world’s first systematic investigation focussing on attachment between children conceived using non-traditional methods was undertaken several years ago, by researchers at the Family and Child Psychology Research Centre at City University, London.

The team looked at 43 families with a child born through surrogacy, 51 with an IVF child and 86 with a naturally-conceived child. All babies were between nine months and a year old. 

Key findings included: 

  • the babies born via surrogacy received better parenting and more love than the children brought up by their birth parents
  • the children conceived through IVF with donor eggs benefited from a deeper emotional involvement with parents
  • in warmth, emotional involvement and mothering and fathering qualities, the surrogacy and egg donor families rated more highly. 

Research psychologist, Fiona MacCallum, noted: “The surrogacy families seem to be characterised by warm relationships and high quality of parenting.” 

Certainly my anecdotal experience has been those unable to conceive children in the traditional way, whether due to fertility issues or gender, often make at least as good parents as their more fecund and / or heterosexual counterparts. In other words, there is no direct correlation between one’s ability to conceive and bear a child, and the quality of parenting one then provides. The empirical evidence supports this.

People, regardless of sexuality, who become parents via surrogacy do not do so accidentally. The children they have are longed-for. Mr Newman might take note. Parents are not automatically better at the job because accident or design permit them to reproduce with abandon.  

Family Solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK offer a free initial consultation. Call freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we will call you.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have 1,450 staff and offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Derby, Merseyside, Bristol, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield, Cambridge & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.


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