"Indeed, at the age at which children begin to understand their family circumstances, they continue to function well," said Sophie Zadeh from University of Cambridge in the UK.

The number of children born to single women is increasing with the help of technology such as donor insemination and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), researchers said.

The study was an evaluation of 51 solo mother families who were compared with 52 heterosexual two-parent families with at least one donor-conceived child aged 4-9 years.

The participating families were matched in terms of the age and gender of the target child, and on demographic factors including the mother's educational level.

The study is the first to examine child adjustment and children's perspectives in solo mother families at an age at which children are old enough to understand their family circumstances and what it means to grow up without a father - and the only study to assess children's own reports about their social and family experiences, said Zadeh.

Mothers in both groups answered standardised questionnaires of child adjustment and parenting stress. In addition, the solo mothers completed an interview which asked about their children's feelings about a father, and whether or not this was a topic of family discussion, researchers said.

A total of 47 children within these solo mother families agreed to be interviewed. They were asked about family life and friendships.

There was no significant difference between the two family types when assessed for child adjustment according to a standardised questionnaire, researchers said.

However, higher levels of financial difficulties within the solo mother families, and higher levels of parenting stress, were each associated with higher levels of child adjustment problems, they said.
    
Mothers mostly reported that their children had neutral (39 percent) or mixed (28 percent) feelings about the absence of a father, although qualitative analysis of mothers' reports showed that conversations about fathers were a prominent feature of family life, researchers said.

As for the children themselves, most (89 per cent) who answered a question about changing their family circumstances either expressed a desire for just trivial changes (38 percent) or no change (51 percent).

Children mostly (59 percent) reported high (19 per cent) or very high (40 percent) levels of enjoyment of school. All reported having at least one friend, and most (51 percent) named five or more friends. The majority (63 percent) had not been teased at school, or had experienced only trivial teasing (34 percent), researchers said.

"Between the ages of 4 and 9, donor-conceived children in solo mother families generally seem to be doing well," said Zadeh.

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