Publication Date

Fall 2023


The purpose of this data set is to investigate the experiences of parents, children, biological and non-biological family members when families are constructed in non-traditional ways. We address families constructed with known donors, in polyamourous and platonic family formations, families with step parents, and through adoption. Social Media posts between 2018 and 2023 were systematically collected from Reddit, Tiktok, Youtube, and Twitter. Data were collected by a team of collaborative researchers focusing on three topical areas: Donor conception, Adoption, and Mutli-Parent Families.

General Information

Introduction to the data set

The creation of the Contemporary Family Database was designed through a collaborative process in which research fellows participated in developing the specific inclusion and exclusion criteria, search procedures, and standardized protocols for gathering data in each social media platform. For the purposes of this research, contemporary families are defined as consisting of one or more parents, or caretakers/guardians, and children, whether conceived without medical assistance, donor conception, and adoption. Posts between 2018 and 2023 were sampled to form a comprehensive online social media data explore and document narratives related to contemporary family formations. This dataset covered various aspects of family creation, including adoption, multi-parent households, and donor conception. Below we provide a detailed description of the inclusion and exclusion criteria for each of these sub-teams. This extensive data set was collected with these detailed criteria to provide diverse perspectives on contemporary family formations, adoption, multi-parent households, and donor conception through personal narratives and experiences shared on social media platforms.


Teams were created for each subtopic, which includes adoption, donor conception, and multi parent families. Each of the family teams were also assigned a role as research fellows, topic experts, and data experts to divide the planning and execution of tasks. Weekly meetings were utilized to discuss and share current research covering each of the subtopics and specific social media platforms. Further, meeting time was reserved to standardize data collection parameters based on platform and subtopic. This process allowed each researcher to share research techniques, useful keywords, and get clarifications throughout each step of the research process.

Dataset creation was developed first through determining the features that would be consistent for the entire project. Twitter, Reddit, Tiktok, and YouTube comments were the social media platforms chosen for this database because they provide publicly available posts and do not necessitate approval for working with human subjects. Data was collected through a Google sheets document with a tab for each of the social media platforms. The predesignated data cells are marked in green and are consistent throughout the entire database; whereas, supplemental cells are marked in red with all red cells being added through discussions either of the family group as a whole or for a specific social media platform. Throughout the research gathering phase, the data expert monitored data collection and brought inconsistencies to team meetings and collection practices were adjusted by consensus. Personal identifiers were collected either through perceived or declared identities in that any specific identifiers used in a person’s bio would be recorded using exact language; in contrast, perceived identifiers were used based on profile pictures and hints in bio and included more broad based labels (, woman, transman, transwoman, nonbinary). Any personal information has also been redacted in all posts, captions, and hashtags to maintain the anonymity of all data.

Adoption Sub-topic

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Narratives of people choosing to create a family via adoption, whether actively pursuing adoption or having already adopted.

  • Narratives of adoptees, describing their experiences.

  • Stories related to adoption breakdowns, including situations before or after the adoption process.

  • Non-formalized adoption arrangements, such as kinship agreements.

  • Individuals who are legal guardians due to adoption.

  • Intent to adopt, including descriptions of actionable steps or being in the adoption process.

  • Narratives involving fostering with the intent to adopt.

  • Stories describing barriers and support systems in the adoption process.

  • Stepparents who adopt their partner's biological children or individuals who were adopted by their stepparents.

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Discourses that solely provide general education about the larger system of adoption without personal experiences.

  • Individuals without intent to adopt or lacking first-hand experience with adoption.

  • Stepparents who were involved in the creation of the child (e.g step-parent adoption after donor conception)

  • Individuals who did not actively choose to create a child through adoption.

Multi-Parent Household Sub-topic

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Narratives of people planning multi-parent households, including polyamorous parenting, queer families, grandparent-led families, communal families, and other elective co-parent arrangements.

  • Individuals with future desires or plans to raise children communally.

  • Narratives of children describing their experiences being raised by multiple parents.

  • Stories related to legal aspects, challenges, and workarounds when raising a child in multi-parent households.

  • Strategies for raising children in multi-parent households, including safety measures in public environments.

  • Multi-generational household stories where more than bio-parents played a role in parenting or caring for children.

  • Experiences of families raising children in alternative family arrangements.

  • Any person describing parenting activities, regardless of nomenclature associated with the activity.

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Non-parental partners in consensually non-monogamous (CNM)/polyamorous relationships.

  • Closeted CNM relationships hidden from children and the community.

  • Advertisements, hate comments, trolling, bots, and external commercial organizations.

  • Comments from friends or extended family members not directly involved in the narratives.

Donor Conception sub-topic

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Narratives from people wanting to create a child via donor conception (DC), those who have created a child via DC, and those who were conceived via DC.

  • Narratives of different methods of DC conception.

  • Stories involving individuals who were conceived via DC and were lied to about it.

  • Donor sibling stories.

  • People with infertility issues, regardless of gender, sexuality, or parental arrangements.

  • LGBTQ+ individuals seeking pregnancy via assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

  • Surrogate/gestational carrier narratives related to family creation concepts.

  • Stories about the failure to conceive via specific ART methods.

  • Narratives of private donor arrangements and new kinship formations among families using DC and ART.

  • Legal concerns and speculation around the legal framework for families constructed via ART.

  • Barriers to accessing ART.

  • Donors sharing their feelings and experiences.

  • People thinking about pursuing DC but haven't formally started the process.

  • Single parents and single parents-to-be, including women planning to get pregnant without a partner.

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Hate comments, trolling, spam, bots, ads.

  • Vague commentary about donor conception.

  • Posts not in English or violating platform-specific criteria.

  • Individuals without firsthand experience related to DC.

  • Posts from people educating on donor conception without direct personal experiences.

  • Posts from people working with or for DC agencies or organizations.

Key Terms


Platform Specific Information

Sub platforms


Twitter data collection began with fellows creating new, unidentified accounts. This approach was specifically used to ensure a clean slate for searching and an ability to bypass any age-restricted content for sex work/er related posts. Creating a new Twitter account requires following at least one other account, with a list of suggested accounts to follow appearing during the creation process. Fellows selected one account from the suggested list, often a celebrity or other prominent public figure unrelated to the data collection.

Data was collected using the ‘advanced search’ component within Twitter’s website. This feature allowed fellows to input a search term and filter results to specific date ranges. Fellows limited results to specific months within the timeline of interest (January 2018 – May 2023). Results were also filtered to only include Tweets with 2 or more Likes in an attempt to minimize results from spam or bots.


Inclusion criteria for Tik Tok was defined as video data points where people are discussing their experience with choosing to create a family via adoption or those discussing their experience as someone who has been incorporated into that family structure.

There were several categories that were added to the data sheets for TikTok including: sound used/relevant lyrics, number of favorites, number of views, number of shares, listed pronouns, and creator interaction. TikTok has the unique feature of “sounds” which are sound clips that can include music and lyrics, conversations, or sound effects which creators use in their videos. Sounds often tread on TikTok or are used in certain ways, so we felt it was important to record what sound may have been used or any relevant lyrics or words in them. TikTok also has some features it records that other platforms may not such as favorites, views, and shares.


Although YouTube is a rich resource for both visual and textual data, the YouTube data collection focused solely on comments from YouTube videos, with YouTube shorts completely excluded. Similarly to other social media platforms, YouTube’s algorithm heavily influences users’ search results based on their previous searches and other, often unknown, performance metrics. In order to mitigate the algorithm’s influence during the data collection process, data was collected in an incognito search and a new browser window was opened with each new search. Suggested videos were also excluded; instead, data collectors selected videos from the search query results.

Data from several other YouTube-specific features were collected in order to gain an insight into how users were interacting with the videos on the platform. For example, information on the video creator, subscriber count, video views and likes were collected in order to measure the reach of a video posted and the creator’s channel. Recording a video’s likes and views also measured how users interacted with a video without necessarily leaving a comment. Multiple levels of interactivity were recorded, with data collection also accounting for how users interacted with each others’ comments. A comment’s number of likes was recorded, and each comment was assigned a comment reference number in order to account for these user interactions.


Researchers created new Reddit profiles with either their school accounts or new emails, and use incognito browsers when researching. Reddit profiles were used only for researching, and we do not interact with or follow subreddits. Researchers did not join or pull information from private pages.

The data collection process on Reddit followed a structured guide. Comments were kept directly under their respective parent posts in the data bank to ensure the integrity of the original threads. When reviewing the content, data collectors first sorted the posts by their unique Post IDs and then followed the nesting pattern of comments. Each post and comment had to be recorded with its associated Post ID to maintain data accuracy, this was then removed when published. To preserve the integrity of the conversation threads, it was crucial to nest comments correctly. When skipping comments,due to exclusion criteria collectors used the next continuous number while ensuring that the thread system remained intact. The posts were sorted by the time they appeared on the Reddit page, and the data was collected in that chronological order, ensuring a systematic and organized approach to data collection.


Reference List / Further Resources

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Available for download on Sunday, September 01, 2024