Psychological adjustment in adolescents conceived by assisted reproduction techniques: a systematic review

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Adolescence is a transitional time for identity formation and relationships with parents. While people born through assisted reproduction techniques (ART) appear to be well adjusted in childhood, it is unclear whether these findings carry into adolescence, and whether diverse ART have different psychological outcomes. This review summarizes what is known about the psychological adjustment and family relationships of the growing number of children born through ART who are reaching adolescence.


The Pubmed, Web of Knowledge, PsycINFO and Scopus databases were searched systematically for peer reviewed papers focusing on adolescent psychological adjustment and parent–adolescent relationships in families created by ART. Key search inclusion criteria included all papers published in English relating to adolescents aged between 11 and 18 years.


Seventeen publications with varied methodologies were identified by this review. Only papers relating to in vitro fertilization (IVF), egg donation and donor insemination were identified. Results were categorized according to ART that used the parents' own gametes (IVF) and those that involved reproductive donation (egg donation, and donor insemination). Compared with naturally conceived adolescents and standardized normative samples, adolescents born through all ARTs seemed to be equally well adjusted, and to have positive parent–adolescent relationships. Some differences were however identified based on the type of ART used. In particular, the sex of the parent and child, along with age and process of disclosure of the adolescent's conception were identified as key mediators of parent–adolescent relationships in families created by donor insemination.


The studies in this review indicate that children born through ART have positive parent–adolescent relationships and are well adjusted, with some slight differences based on different ART. The generalizability of findings may be limited by the general low level of disclosure to adolescents in some of the publications, the small sample sizes of studies in the field, along with the large age range that encompasses adolescence. Findings should also be interpreted in light of the fact that many publications focus on singleton births. Future studies should also focus on egg donation, surrogacy and embryo donation, as well as the disclosure processes, and adolescents born into non-traditional families (same-sex or single parents) or those born using different types of donor (anonymous, identity-release or known).

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