Alternative Families and Donor Conception: Stories Across the Life-course

Westminster Sociology Open Talks in 2016 bring together Sociology staff with external speakers to explore a shared topic of interest. In the second Open Talk of 2016, Dr Emily Falconer is joined by Dr Susanna Graham, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge to discuss stories of complex kinships and alterative families across the life-course, from donor conception through to adulthood. Refreshments will be provided.


Date: 10 November 2016

Time: 5pm

Location: The Boardroom, 1st Floor, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster, W1B 2HW

Stories of an absent father: single women negotiating relatedness through sperm donation

 Dr Susanna Graham, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge

 This talk will present findings from an in-depth, qualitative study exploring the experiences of single heterosexual women in the UK embarking upon solo motherhood through sperm donation. Focusing upon the process by which the participants choose a sperm donor, this talk will elucidate the complex and ambivalent meanings that are attributed to both solo motherhood and sperm donation. By paying particular attention to the women’s decision-making regarding the level and type of information sought about their donor, the power for a sperm donor to become a visible actor, albeit symbolically, in this family form will be explored.


Complex Kinships across the life-course

Dr Emily Falconer, Department of History, Sociology and Criminology, University of Westminster

 This discussion explores the familial relationships of adult children who were themselves raised in ‘queerer’, alternative family structures. Whilst there is now a greater acceptance of same-sex parenting within both public and private services that work with families (fertility clinics, social work, adoption and fostering) U.K public services still struggle to relate to ‘queerer’ families whose lifestyles feel less familiar then the two-parent family. This is especially the case where there are multiple parental figures involved in child rearing. Whilst current U.K law only recognises two legal parents at one time in practice ‘queerer’ families often have more than two recognised parents. There are many combinations of extended queer family formations that include genetic and non-genetic parenting, and ongoing relationships with known sperm donors, but little research that as yet look into the impacts of multiple parenting on the families involved and ongoing networks of care over time. This is especially pertinent where there is a lack of legal recognition beyond two parents, and how this impacts upon care and kinship throughout changes in the life course and potential relationship breakdown.

This event is open to academics, students and anyone else who’s interested in this important topic. External attendees should email in advance.




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