One in 25 fathers 'not the
Paternity tests may be done for medical or legal reasons
Up to one in 25 dads could unknowingly be raising
another man's child, UK health researchers estimate.
Increasing use of genetic testing for medical and legal
reasons means more couples are discovering the
biological proof of who fathered the child.
The Liverpool John Moores University team reached its
estimate based on research findings published between
1950 and 2004.
The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and
Professor Mark Bellis and his team said that the
implications of so-called paternal discrepancy were huge
and largely ignored, even though the incidence was
In the US, the number of paternity tests increased from
142,000 in 1991 to 310,490 in 2001.
Demand for testing has grown by a factor of 10 in the
last decade in the UK, according to University
The current level in the UK is somewhere between 8,900
and 20,000 tests per year.
About 5,000 of these tests are instigated at the demand
of the Child Support Agency to resolve who should be
paying child maintenance.
Others are done to investigate inherited health
disorders and others for social reasons.
The Liverpool team found that rates of cases where a
father was not the biological father of his child ranged
from 1% in some studies to as much as 30%.
Experts have generally agreed that the rate is below
10%, with a 4% rate meaning that about one in 25 could
However, increasing use of genetic testing is likely to
boost the rates of paternal discrepancy, say the
Professor Bellis said the consequences of a man finding
out that he is not the biological father of a child
could be devastating.
It can lead to relationship breakdown, mental health
problems for both partners and even domestic violence,
while the children involved can experience low
self-esteem and anxiety.
He said services and support should be available to
minimise such negative consequences.
However, even basic counselling is not always provided -
some individuals order and receive test results by email
or over a web site, he said.
"Vital information is being delivered to people without
very much thought about how it is going to
affect them," he said.
Rebecca Webster, a counsellor for private paternity
testing company DNA Bioscience, who speaks to about 500
men each month about such decisions, said: "We will
raise the issue about whether they have thought about
the consequences both for them and all those involved.
"Very often they are quite distressed and they want
someone to talk to.
"By the time they get the results a lot of people have
prepared themselves. But it's a very emotional process,
even if the result is the one they wanted.
"In an ideal world, everyone should have counselling and
it should be available on the NHS. Unfortunately, it's
Adrienne Burgess of Fathers Direct called for a code of
practice to ensure companies providing paternity tests
also offer counselling.
The NSPCC said fathers who find out they have been
raising another man's child should remember that however
angry they feel, they should not take this out on the
child in any way.
"The child will still regard the parent as their father.
Rejection could be a devastating double blow
for the child, " said a spokeswoman.
"Other than telling us how to live, think, marry, pray,
vote, invest, educate our children and, now, die, I
think the Republicans have done a fine job of getting
government out of our personal lives." - Craig Carter
column, The Oregonian, 5/22/05
SUPPORT THE STRUGGLE FOR SEXUAL FREEDOM!
FIGHT HIV ON YOUR PC FOR FREE!