Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings, and the Creation of New Kin

Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings, and the Creation of New Kin


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The ready availability of donated sperm and eggs has made possible an entirely new form of family. Children of the same donor and their families, with the help of the internet, can now locate each other and make contact. Sometimes this network of families form meaningful connections that blossom into longstanding groups, and close friendships. This book is about unprecedented families that have grown up at the intersection of new reproductive technologies, social media and the human desire for belonging.

Random Families asks: Do shared genes make you a family? What do couples do when they discover that their children shares half their DNA with a dozen or more other offspring from the same sperm donor? What do kids find in common with their donor siblings? What becomes of these chance networks once parents and donor siblings find one another?

Based on over 350 interviews with children (ages 10-28) and their parents from all over the U.S., Random Families chronicles the chain of choices that couples and single mothers make from what donor to use to how to participate (or not) in donor sibling networks. Children reveal their understanding of a donor, the donor's spot on the family tree and the meaning of their donor siblings. Through rich first-person accounts of network membership, the book illustrates how these extraordinary relationships — woven from bits of online information and shared genetic ties — are transformed into new possibilities for kinship.

Random Families offers down-to-earth stories from real families to highlight just how truly distinctive these contemporary new forms of family are.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190888275
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 12/07/2018
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 752,246
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Rosanna Hertz is the 1919 50th Reunion Professor of Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies at Wellesley College. She authored the widely acclaimed Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice, a path-breaking study of women who choose parenthood without marriage. She is frequently sought out by national media on issues related to women, work and changing families in contemporary society.

Margaret K. Nelson is the A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Sociology Emerita at Middlebury College where she taught for four decades. Her books include Working Hard and Making Do: Surviving in Small Town America (with Joan Smith), and Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION: Unprecedented Relationships

Introduction to Part I
Chapter 1 Choosing Donors
Chapter 2 Inventing the Donor/Inventing the Self
Chapter 3 Parents Make Contact with Genetic Strangers
Chapter 4 The Surprise of donor siblings

Introduction to Part II
Chapter 5 Michael's Clan: The Arrival of The "Father"
Chapter 6 7008 Builders Network: We are Family
Chapter 7 The Tourists: Just Related Strangers
Chapter 8 Connected Soulmates: Emotional Ties
Chapter 9 Social Capitalists: Joining The Preschoolers Group
Chapter 10 Donor Sibling Networks: Continuity and Change
CONCLUSION: Choice in Donor Sibling Networks

Appendix A: Respondents
Appendix B: Interviews, Virtual Ethnography And Language In The Book


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