Sperm donors generally are more stable and mature and just plain more together than men who have never made a deposit in a plastic vial. At least that's what Swedish researchers have found in what is thought to be the first study to examine personality traits of sperm donors.
Researchers at Linköping University asked donors at all seven Swedish sperm banks to complete questionnaires about their temperament, character and demographic factors such as age, education and marital status. The researchers then compared the donors’ answers to men the same age who hadn’t donated. The findings were reported this week in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
The donors -- average age 34-- described themselves as being less worried, less uncertain and more energetic than men in the non-donating group. The donors’ answers indicated they were also more goal-oriented, resourceful and self-accepting. Nearly half of the donors were in a relationship, and more than a third had their own kids.
However, the findings might not necessarily apply to men beyond Sweden. For one thing, Swedish sperm donors don’t get paid. They’re reimbursed for their travel and work expenses -- and the magazines are presumably free. But that’s it. According to research, Swedish sperm donors do it out of a sense of altruism. Because they tend to be in their 30s, it’s not likely they’re trying to pay for their college tuition or earn extra cash like the jerky dad in "The Kids are All Right" movie.
In the U.S. “sperminators,” as they're called at the Cryobank sperm bank, can make as much as $150 a pop.
Also, Swedish sperm donors aren’t anonymous. Since 1985, Swedish law has given all children conceived via donor sperm the right to learn who their donor was when they turn 18. However, no children have requested the identity of their fathers, possibly because “the children don’t know” they were conceived with donor sperm, Gunilla Sydsjö, psychologist and lead author of the study, told msnbc.com in an email.
Although anonymity is permitted in the U.S., sperm banks increasingly are recruiting donors who are willing to be identified if any resulting children ask about them.
At the Fairfax Cryobank in Virginia, one of the largest U.S. sperm banks, researchers have seen some differences between anonymous and identifiable donors. The identifiable donors tended to be older, although still not as old as the Swedish donors, and more likely to be settled in a good job and fathers of their own kids, says Michelle Ottey, Fairfax Cryobank's director of operations.
Whether that means the identifiable, slightly older U.S. sperminators may be as optimistic, stable and resourceful as their Swedish counterparts is unclear. And no telling if women will ever check "self-accepting" along with Ivy League degree or blue eyes on the donor preference chart.