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Special Issue "Health and Well-Being Related to New Family Forms: Perspectives of Adult Individuals, Couples, Extended Family Members, Children, and Professionals"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Behavior, Chronic Disease and Health Promotion".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (14 June 2022) | Viewed by 51302

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Dorit Segal-Engelchin
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
The Spitzer Department of Social Work, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva 84105, Israel
Interests: new family structures; factors associated with family-form choices; effects of family structure on the well-being of women and men; women’s health and well-being; CB-ART interventions for stress reduction
Prof. Dr. Orit Taubman-Ben-Ari
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Social Work Faculty of Social Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, 5290002 Israel
Interests: Intergenerational relationships and personal growth following life transitions, such as the transitions to parenthood and grandparenthood, in regular and special circumstances (e.g., infertility, pre-term birth; twins); the psychology of risk taking, especially reckless driving, with an emphasis on risk taking among adolescents and young adults.

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Over the past four decades, within most Western societies, the traditional family composed of a married heterosexual couple and their genetically related children has given way to an array of new family configurations. This shift is linked to major social and legal changes, as well as medical advances in assisted reproduction technologies. The ever-growing diversity of new family forms encompasses, among other things, intentionally child-free families, single-parent-by-choice families, families created by elective co-parenting arrangements, families headed by LGBTQ+ parents, families created through reproductive donation (e.g., sperm, egg, or embryo donation), and surrogacy families.

Recent research has begun to shed light on individual differences among parents and children within new families and the factors underlying these differences. The aim of this Special Issue is to advance our knowledge and understanding of the factors that shape the diverse experiences, wellbeing, and health outcomes of individuals on their path to forming new family forms, as well as those of the adults and children living in specific family forms, to inform the development of policies and practices designed to promote the thriving of these families. It will extend current knowledge from the viewpoints of both members of new families and professionals, such as physicians, therapists, and teachers.

This Special Issue seeks papers devoted to investigating a wide range of factors contributing to the psychological, social, and health outcomes of members in new family forms, including but not limited to characteristics of the family members, parental stress, resilience and coping strategies, family climate, stress related to non-traditional family-form choices, and sociocultural and/or other contextual factors. Papers addressing the following topics are also welcome: effects of perceived stigma on the wellbeing of adults and children in new families, the impact of laws and public policies on family-form choices, and perspectives of medical doctors, mental health professionals, and health policy-makers on the outcomes associated with living in new family forms. The Special Issue is open to papers from a variety of perspectives, including medical, psychological, social, and legal perspectives.

Prof. Dr. Dorit Segal-Engelchin
Prof. Dr. Orit Taubman-Ben-Ari
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • new family forms
  • routes to parenthood
  • wellbeing
  • health outcomes
  • stress
  • resilience
  • coping strategies
  • infertility-related stress
  • assisted reproduction
  • reproductive donation
  • fertility preservation

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

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Article
Higher Levels of Postnatal Depressive Symptomatology, Post-Traumatic Growth, and Life Satisfaction among Gay Fathers through Surrogacy in Comparison to Heterosexual Fathers: A Study in Israel in Times of COVID-19
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(13), 7946; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19137946 - 28 Jun 2022
Viewed by 362
Abstract
This study aimed to explore the psychological welfare, as indicated by postnatal depressive symptomatology, life satisfaction, and posttraumatic growth (growth after contending with stressful birth events), of Israeli gay fathers through surrogacy in comparison to heterosexual fathers. For that purpose, a sample of [...] Read more.
This study aimed to explore the psychological welfare, as indicated by postnatal depressive symptomatology, life satisfaction, and posttraumatic growth (growth after contending with stressful birth events), of Israeli gay fathers through surrogacy in comparison to heterosexual fathers. For that purpose, a sample of 167 Israeli fathers (M = 35.6, SD = 4.4) was recruited (68 identified as gay fathers through surrogacy and 99 as heterosexual fathers). Participants completed questionnaires assessing their postnatal depressive symptomatology, life satisfaction, and sense of posttraumatic growth after becoming fathers. Results indicated that gay fathers through surrogacy reported higher levels of life satisfaction and posttraumatic growth than heterosexual fathers. Yet, gay fathers also reported higher levels of postnatal depressive symptomatology than heterosexual fathers when life satisfaction or posttraumatic growth values were low or medium. The findings were interpreted in light of the hardships associated with cross-border surrogacy and the psychological outcomes associated with succeeding to become fathers after contending with them. The study contributes to the limited literature on postnatal depressive symptomatology and posttraumatic growth among gay fathers through surrogacy and provides clinicians and policymakers with relevant information on the psychological strengths and potential difficulties associated with cross-border surrogacy among gay fathers. Full article
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Article
Family Alliance and Intergenerational Transmission of Coparenting in Gay and Heterosexual Single-Father Families through Surrogacy: Associations with Child Attachment Security
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(13), 7713; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19137713 - 23 Jun 2022
Viewed by 262
Abstract
Parents tend to internalize the coparenting model they experienced during childhood and enact it in their coparenting relationships as adults. These interactive patterns may, in turn, shape their children’s internal working models of attachment relationships. The present study recruited 31 gay and 28 [...] Read more.
Parents tend to internalize the coparenting model they experienced during childhood and enact it in their coparenting relationships as adults. These interactive patterns may, in turn, shape their children’s internal working models of attachment relationships. The present study recruited 31 gay and 28 heterosexual single-father families through surrogacy to examine family alliance quality and the mediating role of observed supportive and conflictual coparenting in the association between the coparenting quality single fathers experienced in their families of origin and the attachment security of their children. All single fathers lived in Italy, were cisgender and White, and had a child aged 6–12 years (M = 97.73 months; SD = 20.48; 47.5% girls) who they coparented with nonparental caregivers (i.e., 33 grandparents, 18 babysitters, 8 uncles/aunts). Families did not differ in family alliance dimensions based on fathers’ sexual orientation. Additionally, single fathers who experienced greater coparenting quality in their families of origin demonstrated lower levels of conflictual coparenting, which, in turn, were associated with greater child attachment security. In contrast, observed supportive coparenting did not mediate this relation. The results emphasize the need to reconceptualize the dyadic coparental unit in single-father surrogacy families to include extended family members and nonrelatives. Full article
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Article
Parental Burnout and Its Antecedents among Same-Sex and Different-Sex Families
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(13), 7601; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19137601 - 21 Jun 2022
Viewed by 343
Abstract
Parental burnout (PB) results from a chronic imbalance between risks and resources and has severe and extended consequences on the wellbeing of parents and their children. Because same-sex (SS) and different-sex (DS) families face partially different stressors (e.g., SS parents are more stigmatized) [...] Read more.
Parental burnout (PB) results from a chronic imbalance between risks and resources and has severe and extended consequences on the wellbeing of parents and their children. Because same-sex (SS) and different-sex (DS) families face partially different stressors (e.g., SS parents are more stigmatized) but have also partially different resources (e.g., more egalitarian task sharing in SS couples), the current research aimed to investigate whether PB differs or not according to family type. Two studies were conducted. In study 1, family type differences in PB were explored among 114 demographically matched SS and DS families from 18 countries. Study 2 further explored the predictive value of family type, age, gender, and balance between risks and resources (BR2) in PB, using a sample of 222 matched SS and DS families. Parental burnout was not associated with family type in either study. Although differentially composed, the global BR2 score did not differ across family type and was a significant predictor of all PB dimensions, while controlling for the effect of family type, age, and gender. Thus, in accordance with reviewed studies, parental sexual identity was not associated with family functioning. Future studies should investigate the impact of specific risks and resources (e.g., social support from chosen social networks or legal climate) on PB levels among SS families. Full article
Article
Ultra-Orthodox Lesbian Women in Israel: Alternative Family Structures as a Bridge between Religious and Sexual Identities
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(13), 7575; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19137575 - 21 Jun 2022
Viewed by 281
Abstract
The Jewish ultra-Orthodox community enforces strict rules concerning its members’ way of life and demands that their identities be consistent with that of this conservative community. However, such congruence does not exist for ultra-Orthodox women who identify as lesbians. Drawing on social representation [...] Read more.
The Jewish ultra-Orthodox community enforces strict rules concerning its members’ way of life and demands that their identities be consistent with that of this conservative community. However, such congruence does not exist for ultra-Orthodox women who identify as lesbians. Drawing on social representation theory, this study examines the unique family structures that lesbian ultra-Orthodox women in Israel have adopted to accommodate their conflicting identities. The study employed a qualitative multiple case study design, conducting in-depth interviews with seven ultra-Orthodox lesbian women, and adopted a phenomenological approach to learn about their lived experience. The women had all married young in arranged marriages and all had children. Four of them were still married, while the other three were divorced. In all cases, however, their lesbian identity was kept hidden. The findings reveal the unique family structures these women created that allowed them to maintain their religious way of life on the surface, while remaining committed to their sexual identity in secret. The study extends the social representation theory and promotes an understanding of the multifaceted identity of ultra-Orthodox lesbian women. The findings can aid in designing interventions that can help such women cope with the secret aspects of their life. Full article
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Article
Perceptions of Fertility Physicians Treating Women Undergoing IVF Using an Egg Donation
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(12), 7159; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19127159 - 10 Jun 2022
Viewed by 400
Abstract
In the course of their work, medical teams are routinely exposed to difficult and stressful situations. The few studies in the literature that have examined physicians’ perceptions and responses to such situations have focused primarily on the fields of emergency medicine and chronic [...] Read more.
In the course of their work, medical teams are routinely exposed to difficult and stressful situations. The few studies in the literature that have examined physicians’ perceptions and responses to such situations have focused primarily on the fields of emergency medicine and chronic and terminal illness. However, the field of fertility medicine can also evoke complex feelings among physicians. The present qualitative study examined the perceptions of fertility physicians treating women undergoing egg donation. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 20 fertility physicians, and a categorical analysis was performed. The main category to emerge was the physicians’ perception of egg donation and its implications. Two prominent themes were identified within this category: doctor–patient communication surrounding egg donation and how the idea was presented to the patient; and doctors’ perception of the implications of egg donation, including maternal identity, the relationship between mother and infant, and the mother’s sense of the child’s identity. This is the first study to consider the response to fertility treatments, a contemporary and sensitive topic, from the perspective of the physicians. The findings can contribute to physicians’ understanding of themselves and can help to devise ways to assist them in managing their emotional responses to their work for the benefit of both themselves and their patients. Full article
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Article
Family and Work Lives of Lesbians in China: Implications for the Adult Worker Model
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(11), 6390; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19116390 - 24 May 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 447
Abstract
This article examines the ways in which lesbians explore opportunities and navigate constraints in their family and work lives in urban China. It not only reveals Chinese lesbians’ difficulties in gaining equal access to the labour market and developing their desired family lives, [...] Read more.
This article examines the ways in which lesbians explore opportunities and navigate constraints in their family and work lives in urban China. It not only reveals Chinese lesbians’ difficulties in gaining equal access to the labour market and developing their desired family lives, but also discusses possible ways of enhancing the applicability of the adult worker model for sexual minority women. Previous research has indicated a shift from the male breadwinner model to the adult worker model, suggesting that both men and women are expected to join the labour market, and that women should not carry all the care responsibilities within the family. However, the model largely overlooks the interplay of gender and sexuality factors in shaping work and family lives. This article adopts a qualitative mixed-methods approach, including interviews with 20 Chinese lesbians and social media analysis, to examine lesbians’ experiences of taking part in the family as adults and in the wider economy as workers. It shows how gender norms, heteronormativity, and policy intersect in generating obstacles for Chinese lesbians to thrive as respectable adult workers. This has important implications for attempts to improve the adult worker model to fit better with people’s diverse work/family needs. Full article
Article
The Prospective Co-Parenting Relationship Scale (PCRS) for Sexual Minority and Heterosexual People: Preliminary Validation
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(10), 6345; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19106345 - 23 May 2022
Viewed by 560
Abstract
The coparenting relationship begins with a process of planning and negotiation about having children. Available psychological instruments have not been adapted to sexual minority people, which compromises their ecological validity. This mixed method study aimed to adapt and validate a prospective version of [...] Read more.
The coparenting relationship begins with a process of planning and negotiation about having children. Available psychological instruments have not been adapted to sexual minority people, which compromises their ecological validity. This mixed method study aimed to adapt and validate a prospective version of the Co-Parenting Relationship Scale in a Portuguese sample of sexual minority and heterosexual adults who did not have children and who were in a dyadic relationship. In study 1, cognitive interviews were used to gather participants’ reflections about the original items and the role played by the family of origin and anticipated stigma in coparenting (n = 6). In study 2, using a sample of individuals from 18 to 45 years old, two Exploratory Factor Analyses (EFA) were conducted separately for sexual minority (n = 167) and heterosexual persons (n = 198), and a Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was conducted for heterosexual persons (n = 176). Results showed underscored the importance of families of origin independent of sexual orientation. Different factorial structures for sexual minority and heterosexual persons were observed. Among sexual minority persons, the role of stigma was also highlighted. Implications for practice and research are discussed. Full article
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Article
Behavioral Outcomes of Children with Same-Sex Parents in The Netherlands
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(10), 5922; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19105922 - 13 May 2022
Viewed by 45326
Abstract
Same-sex parents face substantial stressors due to their sexual orientation, such as experiences of prejudice and prohibitive legal environments. This added stress is likely to lead to reduced physical and mental health in same-sex parents that, in turn, may translate into problematic behavioral [...] Read more.
Same-sex parents face substantial stressors due to their sexual orientation, such as experiences of prejudice and prohibitive legal environments. This added stress is likely to lead to reduced physical and mental health in same-sex parents that, in turn, may translate into problematic behavioral outcomes in their children. To date, there are only a few nationally representative studies that investigate the well-being of children with same-sex parents. The current study takes a closer look at children’s behavioral outcomes, reported by a parent, using an adapted version of the emotional, conduct, hyperactivity, pro-social, and peer problems subscales of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). We take advantage of unique data from the Netherlands based on a probability sample from population registers, whereby findings can be inferred to same-sex and different-sex parent households with parents between the ages of 30 and 65, and with children between the ages of 6 and 16 years (62 children with same-sex, and 72 children with different-sex parents). The findings obtained by coarsened exact matching suggest no significant disadvantages for children with same-sex parents compared to different-sex parents. We contextualize these findings in their wider cultural context, and recommend a renewed focus in future research away from deficit-driven comparisons. Full article
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Article
Sociological Accounts of Donor Siblings’ Experiences: Their Importance for Self-Identity and New Kinship Relations
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(4), 2002; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19042002 - 11 Feb 2022
Viewed by 474
Abstract
A fundamental part of the adolescent self is formed through interaction with intimates, usually family members whose roles are reasonably well-defined. However, donor siblings—children who share a sperm donor—lack social scripts for interacting with one another, particularly when they are raised in different [...] Read more.
A fundamental part of the adolescent self is formed through interaction with intimates, usually family members whose roles are reasonably well-defined. However, donor siblings—children who share a sperm donor—lack social scripts for interacting with one another, particularly when they are raised in different households. Moreover, they are often challenged to figure out their relationship to newly discovered genetic relatives. This article examines how donor-conceived teens and young adults navigate relationships with their half siblings and form intimate relationships. Drawing on Garfinkel’s concept of indexing, or the use of familiar categories to make sense of new situations, these youth rely upon their personal knowledge of friends and family to figure out what kinds of relationship they can develop with donor siblings. Based on interviews with 62 youth aged 14–28, who had their own social media accounts and who had chosen to establish contact with their donor siblings, the articles discusses the three stages most donor siblings go through—“anticipation”, “first contact”, and “relationship building”—and the way those stages shape individual identity formation. In the course of the analysis, the article also explores whether interaction with donor siblings affected individual’s sense of identity and whether feelings of closeness with donor siblings differ for youth raised as solo children versus those who have siblings with whom they share a household. For those who report feeling close, youth describe how intimacy is sustained and negotiated at a distance. Finally, as much as youth pick and choose intimates from their larger network, the article also argues that their collective identity as related-kin members remains. Full article
Article
“Only My Husband and My Doctor Know. And You, Girls”: Online Discussions of Stigma Coping Strategies for Russian Surrogate Mothers
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(21), 11325; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111325 - 28 Oct 2021
Viewed by 892
Abstract
(1) Background: Gestational surrogacy is the most common type of surrogacy today. Although technologically well-developed and legal in many countries, it challenges and even contradicts the basic traditional concepts of family, motherhood, and gender roles. In the present study, we examined the types [...] Read more.
(1) Background: Gestational surrogacy is the most common type of surrogacy today. Although technologically well-developed and legal in many countries, it challenges and even contradicts the basic traditional concepts of family, motherhood, and gender roles. In the present study, we examined the types of stigma coping strategies surrogate mothers discussed in an online support group in post-Soviet Russia. (2) Method: We conducted a qualitative thematic analysis of 15,602 posts on a Russian-language online support group for surrogate mothers. (3) Findings: group members discussed four types of coping strategies: stigma internalization, stigma avoidance, group identification, and stigma challenging. Nevertheless, these strategies varied across the surrogate motherhood stages. Group members advised each other on specific strategies to use to cope with the state of discreditable (invisible) stigma (i.e., during the first few months of their pregnancies), with different strategies for when the pregnancies became visible and they risked becoming discredited people. Furthermore, group members disclosed that they used these strategies even when they returned to their previous family and work routines. Theoretically, our findings challenge Goffman’s classic theoretical dichotomy and coping research concerning discreditable (invisible) and discredited (visible) stigma. (4) Conclusion: Our findings indicate that surrogate mothers anticipate experiencing stigma and therefore plan for it by discussing potential coping strategies in the online group. Moreover, any intervention designed to cater to the needs of surrogate mothers must, therefore, take into consideration the social needs of their entire family. Full article

Review

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Review
What We Know and What Remains to Be Explored about LGBTQ Parent Families in Israel: A Sociocultural Perspective
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(7), 4355; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19074355 - 05 Apr 2022
Viewed by 514
Abstract
This paper reviews research on gay and lesbian parent families in Israel through cultural lenses while recognizing the diversity of these families. The major aims of the review are: (1) to provide an overview of the situation of LGBTQ parent families in Israel, [...] Read more.
This paper reviews research on gay and lesbian parent families in Israel through cultural lenses while recognizing the diversity of these families. The major aims of the review are: (1) to provide an overview of the situation of LGBTQ parent families in Israel, as well as of the sociocultural background of the Israeli context and its effects on sexual minorities and LGBTQ parent families; and (2) to identify the limitations and lacunas in the existing research and shed light on what remains to be explored. We searched numerous databases for relevant studies, adopting a narrative approach to summarize the main findings while taking into account the literature on the socio-cultural context in Israel and its impact on sexual minorities and LGBTQ parent families. The search yielded empirical results only for gay and lesbian parent families, with studies emphasizing the challenges they face and the factors related to their well-being and that of LGB individuals aspiring to become parents. In addition, it revealed that research on children’s psychosocial adjustment as a function of parental sexual orientation is quite scarce in Israel. Moreover, it indicated the absence of investigations of bisexual, transgender, or queer parents. We conclude that the sociocultural context of Israel, including its pronatalist and familistic orientation, may play an important role in shaping the experiences of LGBTQ parent families, and should be taken into consideration when studying LGBTQ parents. Full article
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