The number of men who had DNA tests administered for themselves and at least one of their children rose by 64 percent last decade, according to The New York Times. The DNA tests confirm whether or not a man is unknowingly raising another man’s child. More than 400,000 men had DNA tests administered in one year, according to this article. Why the increase?
Is it because more men fear that they may not be the biological fathers of the children they are raising? Men may have always feared this possibility. But now the technology is available at an affordable price to do the test.
The New York Times reports that 30 percent of the men who have tests done receive the news they were fearing. They find out that the child is not theirs. Also, this 400,000 accounts for only certain types of tests; these do not include over-the-counter tests that men take on their own and then have shipped to a lab for evaluation; so there are more than 400,000 people performing paternity-related DNA tests on fathers and children.
As millions of commercial DNA tests have been sold to consumers, adult children are discovering that their father is not really their biological father. Many of them belong to a private Facebook support group called DNA NPE Friends—where NPE stands for “not parent expected”. There are other sides to the story, too. The creator of DNA NPE Friends, Catherine St Clair, recently created a group for the fathers.
The biological relationship between a parent and a child means so much, possibly everything to both parent and child. What happens when a husband finds out that the child is not his?
Most of the married couples involved in situations where the husband is not the biological father of a newborn in the home are soon divorced. This means the families are affected by all of the negative outcomes associated with divorce. Some children of these marriages report feeling confusion, sadness and loss when they found out that the person they believed was their father was not their biological dad.
Often, after divorce, the husband who was not the father fights to be released from the obligation to pay child support for a kid who is not his biological offspring. Many of these situations lead to costly court cases that last many years and often create bitter relationships between the ex-husbands and ex-wives. It is hard to believe that the influences on a child are not profoundly negative.
Many men who try to not pay child support in these situations have historically been forced by the courts to continue paying. Most courts rule that if the husband signed the birth certificate and began a father relationship with the child, then he must continue that relationship, at least from a financial perspective, even if he did not know that the child was fathered by someone else at the time he signed. This obviously creates mounds of heartache, confusion and complications for the husband, wife and child involved.
It is clear that instances of paternal discrepancy are more common in marriages where the husband suspects that he is not the father and decides to have a DNA test performed. But what about marriages where there isn’t any suspicion? How often is the husband not the father of the newborn? MSN Living reports two different studies, one done by the University of Oklahoma, the other by Liverpool’s John Moores University. The Oklahoma study calculated that 3.85 percent of the dads would be surprised to find, if a DNA test was done, that they have a legal child who was not their biological offspring. The Liverpool study calculated the number to be 3.7 percent. This would mean that close to 1 million fathers in the U.S. are unknowingly raising another man’s child.
These are difficult, vital issues that will continue to plague families. It is important to remember that the initiating decision, when a child was conceived in these situations, was that of a man and a woman. It is not just a woman’s fault when these types of problems are created.
In any case, one of the main correlations related to poverty is that children are more likely to grow up poor if there is only one parent in the home. Avoiding paternal discrepancy would be one way to cut childhood poverty.
John Hoffmire is Chairman of the Center on Business and Poverty. He also holds the Carmen Porco Chair of Sustainable Business at the Center.
Tom Steele, Hoffmire’s colleague at the Center, did the research for this article.