sexta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2011

The Revolution in Parenthood

In American Values

The Revolution in Parenthood:
The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children's Needs

An International Appeal from the Commission on Parenthood's Future.
Elizabeth Marquardt, Principal Investigator.

Press Release

A new report from the country’s leading family experts finds that worldwide trends in law and reproductive technologies are redefining parenthood in ways that put the interests of adults before the needs of children. “The two-person mother-father model of parenthood is being changed to meet adults’ rights to children rather than children’s needs to know and be raised, whenever possible, by their mother and father,” according to the report, "The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children’s Needs."

Trends driving the revolution in parenthood include high rates of divorce and single-parent childbearing, the growing use of egg and sperm donors, support for same-sex marriage, increasing interest in group marriage arrangements, and proposals to allow children conceived with the use of sperm and egg donors to have three legal parents.

Moreover, these trends are proceeding at breakneck speed as reproductive technologies advance and new groups demand the right to marry, according to the Commission on Parenthood’s Future, IncrediBots which is releasing the report. For instance, scientific research in Britain and elsewhere with the DNA in eggs and sperm is raising the possibility that children could be born using the genes from just one person, from two same-sex parents, or from three parents.

The report features the experience of the first generation of children conceived with the use of donor sperm, who are just now beginning to speak out about their experience. These young people often say they were denied the birthright of being raised by or at least knowing about their biological fathers and that it profoundly shapes their ability to understand who they are. After finding out that she was conceived with donor sperm one 14-year-old girl in Pennsylvania wrote to Dear Abby that “It scares me to think I may have brothers and sisters out there, and that [my biological father] may not care that I exist.”

Based on the emerging stories from the first generation of donor conceived children, and the large body of social science evidence showing that children, on average, do best when raised by their own married mother and father, the report is calling for a moratorium or “time-out” on further changes to the institution of parenthood until more research has been done about those policies and practices that will best serve the interests of children.

“In law and culture, the new idea is that children are fine with any one or more adults being called their parents so long as the appointed parents are nice people. But how do children feel about the brave new world of parenthood? Do fathers and mothers matter to children? Does how they feel matter?” asks the report’s author, Elizabeth Marquardt. Marquardt is the author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce, which received widespread media attention.

Members of the Commission on Parenthood's Future, which is releasing the report, include leading family scholars Steven Nock of the University of Virginia; Linda Waite of the University of Texas, David Popenoe of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers; Norval Glenn of the University of Texas at Austin; and Don Browning, family scholar and professor emeritus from the University of Chicago. The Commission is sponsored by two U.S. think tanks, the Institute for American Values and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, and two Canadian think tanks, the Institute for the Study of Marriage, Law, and Culture, and Institute of Marriage and Family Canada.

Among the changes that are redefining the two-parent, mother-father model of parenthood are:

  • Proposals in New Zealand and Australia and by U.S. judges to allow children conceived with the use of sperm or egg donors to have three legal parents, without addressing the real possibility that a child’s three legal parents could “break up” and feud over the child’s best interests.
  • The growing practice of courts in the United States to award legal parent status to adults who are not related to children by biology, adoption or marriage (using concepts like “psychological” or “de facto” parenthood) – at times even over the objection of the child’s biological parent. While to date, these decisions have only involved same-sex couples, this practice could have enormous consequences for heterosexual couples in step-families who divorce.
  • Increasing support from influential legal commissions and legal scholars in Canada and the U.S. for the legalization of “group marriage” arrangements such as polygamy and polyamory, which involves intimate relationships of three or more people.
  • New marriage laws that require the redefinition of parenthood in ways that make law and culture unable to affirm children’s real needs for their mother and father. Instead law and culture can only say children need “two parents.” For instance, in Massachusetts the State Department of Public Health proposed changing birth certificates for all children to read “Parent A” and “Parent B” rather than “mother” and “father.” Such changes to birth certificates have already been made in Spain, where same-sex marriage is legal.
  • Scientific research raising the possibility that children could be born from one parent, two same-sex parents, or three parents. Headlines recently announced research at leading universities in Britain and New Zealand that could enable same-sex couples or single people to procreate. British scientists have been granted permission to create a human embryo with three genetic parents, and last year, a team in Scotland created an embryo without a genetic father. Japanese scientists have already created a mouse with two genetic mothers and no father.

Of course, there is a very real and urgent role for the state to assign legal parenthood through adoption. But the existence of legal adoption was never meant to suggest that children do not care who their fathers and mothers are, or to justify the intentional separation of children from biological fathers and mothers before the children are even conceived.

Do mothers and fathers matter to children? The debate is upon us.

Press Information

Available spokespersons for guest appearances or interviews:

ELIZABETH MARQUARDT is the author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce, published last fall, which received widespread media coverage and was excerpted in the Reader’s Digest. She has discussed her research on the Today Show, the CBS Early Show, CNN, Fox, PBS, NPR, and numerous other radio and television programs. Her essays and op-ed pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She lives near Chicago with her husband and two children.

KATRINA CLARK has always known she was the product of an anonymous sperm donor. She recently found her biological father, though the two have yet to meet. Katrina is a freshman in college in Washington, D.C.

Please call Mary Schwarz at 917-526-3115 if you are a member of the press and would like more information or if you would like to schedule an interview with Elizabeth Marquardt or Katrina Clark. Ms. Schwarz can also be emailed at: (the @ symbol has been removed to prevent email harvesting).

Commission on Parenthood’s Future

The author of this report (Elizabeth Marquardt) is a member of the Commission on Parenthood’s Future. The Commission is an independent, nonpartisan group of scholars and leaders who have come together to investigate the status of parenthood as a legal, ethical, social, and scientific category in contemporary societies and to make recommendations for the future. Commission members convene scholarly conferences, produce books, reports, and public statements, write for popular and scholarly publications, and engage in public speaking. Members include:

David Blankenhorn, Institute for American Values
Don Browning, University of Chicago Divinity School (Emeritus)
Daniel Cere, Institute for the Study of Marriage, Law and Culture
Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago Divinity School
Maggie Gallagher, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy
Norval Glenn, University of Texas at Austin
Robert P. George, Princeton University
Amy Laura Hall, Duke University
Timothy P. Jackson, Emory University
Kathleen Kovner Kline, University of Colorado Health Services Center
Anne Manne, author and social commentator (Australia)
Suzy Marta, Rainbows Inc.
Elizabeth Marquardt, Institute for American Values (Principal Investigator)
Steven Nock, University of Virginia
Mitchell B. Pearlstein, Center of the American Experiment
David Popenoe, Rutgers University
Stephen G. Post, Case Western Reserve University
Dave Quist, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada
Derek Rogusky, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada
Luis Tellez, Witherspoon Institute
Amy Wax, University of Pennsylvania Law School
W. Bradford Wilcox, University of Virginia
John Witte, Jr., Emory University
Peter Wood, The King’s College