Research

For over 30 years, THE SPERM BANK OF CALIFORNIA has been involved in research on family-building through donor insemination. We are leaders in the field - tracking the outcome of each insemination attempt, maintaining records of conceptions since the establishment of our organization, and conducting research on the well-being of TSBC families and donors. We conducted the research below with cisgender women and men in mind. We are now working toward a more inclusive research program.

Since 2000, Joanna Scheib, PhD, has guided the research program. Research findings shape how we provide family-building options and inform the long-term services and support we provide our families, the donors and their families. We applied more than a decade of research to develop and implement a system for information release to adults with donors in TSBC's Identity-Release® Program.

Interested in participating in our research? Get a research update? See what's available.

For our most up-to-date research, see publications.

Acknowledgment of research funding & support

 

First 10 Years of Donor Information Releases to Adults

The first individuals with donors in the Identity-Release® Program turned age 18 in 2001. Since then, over 100 donor-conceived adults have obtained their TSBC donor's information. We are interviewing many of these adults, to learn what happens after a person receives their donor's name and other information. The first study findings - Who Requests Their Donor's Identity - are now published in the peer-reviewed assisted reproduction journal, Fertility & Sterility. Findings indicate that origins information matters to a significant number of donor-conceived adults. Having an open-identity donor gives adults options. They can get more donor information, if and/or when they want it.

For more information, contact Executive Director, Alice Ruby.

 

Preparing for Donor Information Releases

Donors, Parents and Youth

We conducted three studies to identify the needs and perspectives of the both the donor and recipient families. Their insight guided the development of TSBC's process for releasing a donor's identity to a donor-conceived (DC) adult. Study participants represented the first group of individuals who could be involved with a release of donor information. This included donors who were from TSBC's Identity-Release® Program 10-18 years earlier, parents whose children were within six years of being able to get their donor's identity and the DC adolescents themselves who were between the ages of 12 and 17. Findings from the donors will be posted when they are published. The insight from the DC adolescents, the parents and the donors has helped inform open-identity sperm donor programs worldwide, as they prepare for their own releases.

 

TSBC Adolescents with Donor Origins  

(Scheib, Riordan & Rubin, 2005)
  • TSBC youth represent some of the first generation to be raised with openness about their donor origins from an early age.
  • Most were comfortable with their origins and felt that knowing had a positive or no impact on the individual relationships with their parents.
  • Almost all were curious about the donor, with common questions being 'What's he like?' and 'Is he like me?'
  • All but one wanted a picture of the donor.
  • The majority stated that they planned to get their donor's identity and pursue contact -- not necessarily at age eighteen, but at some point in their lives.
  • Many wanted to know how their donors felt about being contacted. Few planned to contact their donor directly, but instead would use a letter or email, or follow the donor's stated preference.
  • Many felt that learning about the donor would help them learn more about themselves.
  • None reported wanting financial support from the donor.
  • Few felt they were seeking a parental figure.

Conclusions from the Adolescents

  • Learning about one's donor origins at an early age does not appear to disrupt family relationships and likely contributes to many youths' comfort with their origins.
  • Interest in one's donor is likely fueled by a normal curiosity about origins, that is common among many adolescents during their identity development. This interest may help individuals gain a better sense of themselves.
  • Despite being eager to learn more about the donor, the youth also expressed concern about not intruding on the donor's privacy and life.
  • These findings indicate that the stereotypical concern of "offspring showing up on the donor's doorstep" is inaccurate. This concern does not reflect the actual intentions of youth anticipating going through the process of obtaining their donor's identifying information.

TSBC Parents

(Scheib, Riordan & Rubin, 2003)
  • The vast majority of parents were pleased with their decision to use an open-identity donor - only one regretted it.
  • Almost all parents, even heterosexual couples, had told their children about their donor origins, with most doing so by age 6.
  • All felt that telling their children had at least a neutral, if not positive impact on the parent-child relationship.
  • Almost all parents were curious about the donor, but few felt that their donor played an important role in their family's life.
  • Some parents expressed concerns about how the information releases would go for their adult children.
  • Despite these concerns, all but one parent were positive about their children having the option to identify and possibly meet their donor.
  • Almost all parents expected that their adult children would want the identity of the donor.

Conclusions from the Parents

  • TSBC families appear to be doing well.
  • Parents do not regret telling their children about the family's donor origins and feel that it does not harm their family.
  • Parents look forward to their adult children being able to learn the identity of the donor.

 

Short summary from parents, teens and donorsScheib, 2004

 

Support: We greatly appreciate the youth, parents and donors who were willing to share their experiences with us and help guide how donor information is released. This work was supported by the Bay Area Career Women (administered by the Horizons Foundation), Gill Foundation, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association's Lesbian Health Fund, Rainbow Endowment, an Uncommon Legacy Foundation, and individual donations to our non-profit program.

References

  • Scheib, J.E., Riordan, M. & Rubin, S. (2005). Adolescents with open-identity sperm donors: Reports from 12-17 year oldsHuman Reproduction, 20, 239-252.
  • Scheib, J.E. (2004). Experiences of youth and sperm donors in an open-identity program. In Psychology/Counselling Nursing, pre-congress course publication for the 19th annual meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology, Berlin, Germany, pp. 22-25.
  • Scheib, J.E., Riordan, M. & Rubin, S. (2003). Choosing identity-release® sperm donors: The parents' perspective 13-18 years laterHuman Reproduction, 18, 1115-1127.

Outcomes on the release process:

  • Scheib, J.E., Ruby, A. & Benward J. (2017). Who requests their sperm donor’s identity? The first ten years of information releases to adults with open-identity donors. Fertility & Sterility, 107, 483-493.

 

Research Program Funding & Support

(Past & Current)

  • TSBC Families & Donors
  • Stephanie Bright (Bright & Associates) - Database & Programming Consultant
  • A & P Fund of the Horizons Foundation
  • Gay & Lesbian Medical Association - Lesbian Health Fund
  • Gill Foundation
  • Horizons Foundation - Bay Area Career Women's A Fund of Our Own
  • Rainbow Endowment
  • Uncommon Legacy Foundation
  • University of California Davis Faculty Research Grants
  • University of California Davis Consortium for Women and Research