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Title: Making sense of 'designer babies', reproductive technologies and parenting : an interpretivist inquiry
Author: Honeyman, Hollie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2710 4715
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2010
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The term 'designer baby' was first used by journalist Robin McKie in The Observer in 1986. At this time the phrase described the scenario in which embryos are designed or selected in order to ensure the development of certain characteristics such as intelligence or appearance. However, the selection or creation of embryos based upon these social characteristics is not possible, and as such remains hypothetical. Today, the term designer baby is also applied when specific embryos are selected for 'medical' purposes. This is particularly the case when 'saviour siblings' are created, whereby a child is born to be a tissue match for their ill sibling in order to provide treatment via a stem cell transplant. These changes have served to confound the notions that individuals have of designer babies. From the epistemological position of social constructionism, an explorative, multilevel analysis approach to the issue of designer babies was developed. Initially, the research aimed to establish the different ways in which designer babies are constructed within society. In order to meet this research aim a three level approach was used, which allowed the issue of designer babies to be examined from a societal, group and individual level. The first study examined designer babies from a societal level and involved a thematic content analysis of newspaper reports of designer babies. Analysis revealed a focus upon parents who either had, or wanted to create a designer baby. At this point, the overall research aim was developed in order to incorporate this parenting issue, and became 'to establish how parents are constructed in cases of reproductive technologies being used for design or selection purposes'. Parenting was also incorporated into the design and development of second and third studies. The second study examined the issue of designer babies from a group level, using focus groups involving participants from different religious groups. The constructions identified in studies one and two were used to inform the development of the third study, a Q study (which provided the individual level). Four factors emerged, which were qualitatively interpreted and named; 'utilising healthcare services: 'sanctioning clinical intervention', 'negotiating psychosocial wellbeing' and 'extending procreative liberty'. The liberal sub-set of participants who loaded onto factor four 'extending procreative liberty' support parents who desiqn for both medical and social purposes. This demonstrates that there is some support for the use of reproductive technologies to ensure the development of social characteristics such as intelligence of appearance. The innovative methodology that was developed in the course of the research could be utilised in other research studies that would benefit from taking a multilevel perspective to analysis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available