Journal of the European Society for Gynaecological Endoscopy


Two mothers and a donor: exploration of children’s family ­concepts in lesbian households 

I. Raes1, H. Van Parys2, V. Provoost1, A. Buysse2, P. De Sutter3, G. Pennings1

1Department of Philosophy and Moral Science, Bioethics Institute Ghent (BIG), Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.

2Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.

3Department of Reproductive Medicine, Ghent University Hospital, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.

Correspondence at:"


Qualitative, children, lesbian families, family concept, donor, gamete donation

Published online: Jun 30 2015


Background: Although children from lesbian families appear to make a distinction between a residential father and a donor, defining these two concepts seems to be a challenge. They need to appeal to more familiar concepts such as the hetero-normative concept of ‘mother’ to give a definition of the unfamiliar concepts they are confronted with.
Methods: The study is based on qualitative in-depth interviews with 6 children (9-10 years old) from lesbian families, all of which have been conceived using anonymous sperm donation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted.
Results: Two findings stand out. First, in defining the concepts of biological and non-biological mother, both mothers were described as equal parents. No difference was attached by the children to the mothers’ position as a parent. Second, the concepts ‘non-biological mother’ and ‘donor’ were defined by looking at the hetero-normative concepts of ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’. To define the non-biological mother, both a ‘mummy’ and a ‘daddy’ were used as a reference. To define the donor concept, often references were made to a daddy. This comparison with a ‘daddy’ turned out to be complex due to the conflict between the role as a progenitor and the lack of a social relationship. The lack of language surrounding this concept turned out to be difficult.
Wider implications of the findings: This study illustrates the complexity and ambiguity of children‘s experiences and perceptions when dealing with issues related to genetic and social parenthood.