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New Frontiers of Family - Seminar 4: Beyond the nuclear family: Experiences of non-nuclear families, 7 June 2016, University of the West of England

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Open University
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Researchers and academics with an interest in family
Exact location to be confirm. (Bristol, United Kingdom)

This event is part of the series New frontiers of Family and will explore the following theme: Beyond the nuclear family: Conceiving of a non-nuclear family. It is is sponsored by the British Psychological Society and supported by The Open University, Birkbeck, University of London and the University of the West of England, Bristol.

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Talk outlines

KeynoteModern Families: Parents and children in new family forms, Susan Golombok

The seminar will summarise research on parenting and child development in new family forms including lesbian mother families, gay father families, families headed by single mothers by choice and families created by assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), egg donation, sperm donation, embryo donation, and surrogacy. The research will be examined in the context of the issues and concerns that have been raised regarding these families. The findings not only contest popular myths and assumptions about the social and psychological consequences for children of being raised in new family forms but also challenge well-established theories of child development that are founded upon the supremacy of the traditional family. It will be argued that the quality of family relationships and the wider social environment are more influential in children’s psychological development than are the number, gender, sexual orientation or biological relatedness of their parents or the method of their conception. The seminar will be based on Susan Golombok’s recently published book with the same title.

The disclosure debate in donor conception families: To tell or not to tell?, Lucy Blake

In families in which parents conceived using donated sperm or donated eggs, only one parent will be the genetic parent of the child: the mother in the case of sperm donation and the father in the case of egg donation. Parents in these families have a choice: to tell their child about their donor conception, or not to share this information with them. In families in which parents choose not to tell, children will grow up unaware that the person that they think of as their mother or father is not, in fact, their genetic parent. Furthermore, families in which children were conceived using an anonymous donor will likely never be able to know detailed or identifying information about their donor. This lecture will review the empirical research that has been conducted in this area and explore whether disclosure of donor origins is in a child’s best interests. 

Family Planning Among Younger Same-Sex Couples, Danielle Pearson

This paper discusses findings from my PhD research exploring the experiences of younger (20-35) same-sex couples in long-term relationships. The study was informed by sociological and social psychology approaches to researching long-term relationships. It utilised in-depth qualitative mixed methods consisting of visual scrapbook/diaries, emotion maps, individual interviews, and couple photo collage interviews with 14 younger same-sex couples. My analysis is focused on how these couples experienced and understood their relationships, paying particular attention to the interesting and varying ways couples talked about being, becoming and desiring a family. This includes introducing and examining their narratives on the presence and/or absence of children and animals in their ideas around ‘family’. I explore the ways participants envisioned and planned for children, and likened pets and/or animals with children and family. I present the unique and diverse ways in which the methods and analysis employed enabled access to couples’ ideas around family planning which were central to these narratives.

Thinking and talking about parenthood: Lesbian, gay and bisexual perspectives, Robert Pralat

This talk will present some of the findings from the research project Future Intimacies, which explores views about parenthood in a young generation of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Great Britain. Drawing on in-depth semi-structured interviews with men and women in their twenties and early thirties, conducted in multiple locations across England and Wales, this project examines early stages of non-heterosexual reproductive decision making and family planning. The talk will specifically focus on how young people who form same-sex relationships communicate about potentially becoming parents (or remaining childfree) - we will look at the interviewees' recollections of their conversations with various others, including partners, relatives and friends.

Existing scholarship on lesbian motherhood and gay fatherhood tends to focus on people who have already become parents; the focus of this study is on those who have not experienced parenthood, but may still have children in the future. Based on the interviews, talking about various ways of creating families often relies on vocabulary that is not easily accessible in everyday conversations. Communication is further complicated by the technical and ethical complexities of the different pathways to parenthood. We will consider how our understanding of both parenting and sexuality can be advanced by paying closer attention not only to people's experiences and parenting practices but also to people's imagination (and the articulation of what they imagine).

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