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Ask the Expert: Will my child conceived via IVF have more emotional problems?

Children who are wanted and who have caring parents tend to do better emotionally and behaviourally

Q: My two-year-old daughter was conceived through IVF, and I've heard that IVF children are more likely to develop emotional or behavioural problems. Is this true?

A: Dr Anna Barbuscia of the London School of Economics and Political Science, has just led a study into the behaviour and emotions of children conceived through medically assisted reproduction (MAR).

She says: "After all the emotional upheaval that IVF and the birth of a child can entail, it's understandable you might be hyper-vigilant about your daughter's wellbeing. However, the findings of our research should provide you with some reassurance.

"We found that children conceived through medically assisted reproduction, including IVF, are actually at no more risk of developing emotional or behavioural problems than those conceived naturally.

"In fact, because of the backgrounds of parents who can afford to undertake these treatments – they are usually more affluent and highly educated – these children show even better levels of behavioural development. Once we took parental characteristics into account, we did find evidence of slightly lower levels of behavioural development at very early ages, but any difference disappeared by the age of six.

"There have been some concerns that as children born as a result of fertility treatment enter adolescence, they might develop behavioural or emotional problems related to, for example, identity issues. But we don't see any sign of this.

"It's worth bearing in mind that because our research relies on a measure of mental development and psychological wellbeing that's based on parental responses, the lower scores we see for younger children may be more to do with their parent's anxiety. I can imagine the extra vigilance that a mother or father might have, particularly in the early years, over the welfare of a much longed for child.

"Excluding parental background, children born through assisted reproduction develop in a similar way to naturally conceived children. There's no evidence of an increased risk of developing behavioural problems during childhood or while they enter adolescence.

"Ultimately, we know children who are wanted and who have caring parents tend to do better emotionally and behaviourally. Our research shows that this remains true, however a child is conceived."

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