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Different Kinds of Family
Keeping it in the family: Relation ships and genetic technologies in the UK

Haddow, G

ESRC Genomics Network Conference 2012 - Genomics in Society: Facts, Fictions and Cultures

The British Library, London

April 23 2012

Since the first IVF baby in the UK was born in 1978, dramatic changes have occurred in assisted reproduction and the medical technologies that can be offered to infertile individuals or partners. Changing technologies, e.g. DNA testing, development of ICSI, (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) and practices e.g. egg sharing, ending anonymity and developing embryo research, have arguably made significant impacts on what the “family” is. At the same time as innovations in ARTs have developed, there have been significant social changes in the UK. The age of child bearing has increased with the majority of women choosing to have children in their late 30s and early 40s. Such a demographic shift has contributed to increasing the demand for IVF etc. despite reports of minimal improvement in IVF pregnancy rates. More single women and lesbian couples are accessing ARTs, and there is now a programme for male couples. The UK legal and regulatory context has had to keep abreast with developments. Arguably due to recognition of such changes in 2008, the (2008) HFE Act does not refer to a child's "need for a father" but to “supportive parenting”. While regulatory changes such as these have invoked some controversy it is questionable what impact, if any, this will have in clinical practice or on the families themselves. There may exist an iterative process at work between family agency and genetic technologies that means there are often issues of resistance going on as well as assimilation. Controversially, it may be that the reactions by individuals and kinship groups have more in common with the past than is often assumed to be the case. We may suggest, then, that there are different kinds of family and different family kinds.