What defines a parent?
In an interview with Cryos International, Veerle Provoost answers questions about parenthood, sperm donation, and LGBTQ+ families
Veerle Provoost is a professor and postdoctoral researcher at the Bioethics Institute of Ghent University in Belgium, in the field of genetic and social parenthood within the context of donor conception. In this interview with Cryos International, Provoost answers questions about parenthood and sperm donation, and shares surprising findings from her studies about non-heteronormative families.
What makes a family?
“What makes a family is a very interesting question and a very difficult one to answer", explains Veerle Provoost. "There are many ways that somebody can be a parent." You can be a parent by a genetic link or you can be parent by intention and not share a genetic link. When you are a parent by intention, you can have a social link with your child. Provoost continues, “I also think there are many families and many types of families. I think that in itself is a good thing. It is a richness to our society, but it is often not perceived that way. Yet I think we should adapt to this new reality of there being so many different, diverse types of families.”
Is the genetic link important?
“The most surprising finding I have come across while studying these families were actually two things. First, the parents, when they talk about their link with the child would say that a genetic link is not important. In other words, the parent who does not have a genetic link feels equally as much a parent as the parent who shares a genetic link with the child.
“But when you talk about the children in these interviews, something funny happens, because they then find it very important that the children themselves have full genetic links. So, although I think that they have a different way of looking at families, the families I've spoken to are still very much embedded within the views of our wider, heteronormative society. They cannot take themselves completely away from that view. We should restore their confidence in their own abilities as parents. That is the main thing.”
If you want to learn more about Veerle Provoost’s studies, you can watch her TED-talk (below) where she shares stories of how parents and children create their own family narratives together.