Study Finds 1 in 25 Fathers Not Biological Parent

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A 2005 study from Liverpool John Moores University in the UK suggested that up to 1 in 25 fathers are unknowingly raising another man's child.

The research, reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, was drawn from studies of men and women wanting proof of paternity, and from studies based on genetic health screening. The researchers looked at data from the UK, U.S., Canada, Europe, Russia, South Africa, South America, Mexico and New Zealand.

Overall, they found that the number of  men bringing up a child they mistakenly believe to be their own one in 25, or 4%.

Careful when interpreting the results

Can it really be true that one in 25 fathers are bringing up other men's children? No, that would be the wrong interpretation of this study.

Keep in mind that the patients included in this study are a highly selected population. They were largely people who, for one reason or another, had reason to doubt the true paternity of the children in question. Perhaps it is even surprising that “only” 4% in this study showed “unexpected” results from paternity testing. Indeed, there were big variations on rates among the countries studied - from as low as 1% to as high as 30%. Rates of mistaken paternity were higher for disadvantaged people, for those with more than one sex partner at a time, and for younger women.

Paternity Testing

Paternity testing is simple and involves taking a swab from the inside of the mouth or from a blood sample.

Coping with the test results is a different matter.

Basic counseling ought to be provided as a baseline service with paternity testing, but it is not. The health repercussions for men finding they are not the biological parent of a child can be substantial, and include mental health problems as well as domestic violence against the partner and child.


Bellis MA, Hughes K,Hughes S, et al.Measuring paternal discrepancy and its public health consequences. J Epidemiol Community Health 2005;59:749-754 doi:10.1136/jech.2005.03 a6517

Edited by Richard N. Fogoros, MD

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