Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Single fathers by choice using surrogacy: why men decide to have a child as a single parent

Nicola Carone Roberto Baiocco Vittorio Lingiardi Human Reproduction, Volume 32, Issue 9, 1 September 2017, Pages 1871–1879, Published: 14 July 2017 Article history Cite Permissions Share Abstract STUDY QUESTION Why do men decide to have a child by surrogacy as a single parent? SUMMARY ANSWER Reasons included feeling that it was the right time (i.e. having ‘worked through’ concerns about single parenthood; career and financial stability; a fear of getting older; no longer wanting to wait for the ‘right’ relationship), external encouragement, a desire to reproduce and a fear of separation/divorce. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Because no research has been conducted on single fathers who used surrogacy, their characteristics, motivations and experiences are unknown. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION This study used a cross-sectional design as part of a larger, multi-method, multi-informant investigation of single father families created by surrogacy. Multiple strategies were used to recruit participants (i.e. from an association of gay parents, Facebook groups of single parents and snowballing) between November 2016 and April 2017. Data were obtained from 33 Italian single fathers (Meanage = 47.33 years, SD = 4.63), most of whom self-identified as gay (n = 24, 72.7%). PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted in family homes (n = 20, 60.6%) or over Skype (n = 13, 39.4%). Each interview lasted approximately 40 min and was audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using thematic and qualitative content analysis, with the aid of the software package MAXQDA. Where appropriate, a two-sided Fisher's exact test was used to compare the gay and heterosexual fathers, and illustrative quotations were reported. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE Although all of the single men had experienced mature relationships, about one-third of the fathers (n = 10, 30.3%) had never thought of having a child and the majority of the heterosexual men (n = 7, 77.8%, P = 0.05) had tried to conceive in previous relationships. The gay and heterosexual men differed in their preferred path to parenthood (P = 0.01), with the former (n = 17, 70.8%) having always preferred surrogacy and the latter (n = 6, 66.7%) having considered or attempted conception via casual sex with women. Irrespective of their sexual orientation, most of the fathers chose surrogacy because they wanted a genetic relation to their child (n = 28, 84.8%) and because they felt that surrogacy would be more secure compared to adoption, upon their return to Italy due to Italian laws (n = 26, 78.7%). The majority (n = 20, 60.6%) were satisfied with their decision to ‘go it alone’, although nearly all (n = 16, 80%) would have preferred to have a child within the context of a relationship. After their child's birth, the majority received support from both their parents/siblings (n = 21, 63.7%) and friends (n = 24, 72.7%). LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION The risk of socially desirable responding should be taken into account when interpreting the findings, given the ethical concerns surrounding single fatherhood and surrogacy. Furthermore, fathers with a negative surrogacy experience were less likely to participate in this research. The small sample and participant characteristics of older age, an Italian nationality, a mainly gay sexual orientation and high income may limit the generalizability of the findings. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS This study is the first to provide insight into the reproductive experience of single men seeking surrogacy. The findings warn practitioners and policy-makers against making assumptions about people with access to fertility treatments on the basis of marital status, gender or sexual orientation. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) None. single father by choice, surrogacy, sexual orientation, parenting, motivations Issue Section: Psychology and counselling © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: You do not currently have access to this article.