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12 August 2005
Who's Your Daddy? Paternity Testing Booming
by George Atkinson

Researchers writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health say that around one in 25 dads could unknowingly be raising another man's child. Their findings could have huge implications with the increasing reliance of judicial and health systems on DNA profiling and genetic testing.

The researchers based their findings on a number of wide ranging studies, covering the period between 1950 and 2004. The study showed that rates of "paternal discrepancy" - where a father is not the biological father of his child - range from less than 1 percent to as much as 30 percent. Despite the wide gap in the figures, it is generally believed that rates are below 10 percent, with the researchers indicating a figure of around 1-in-25 families being affected. Additionally, they say there is supportive evidence to be seen in the soaring rates of paternity testing in North America and Europe. In the United States, paternity testing rates have more than doubled between 1991 and 2001.

The researchers included other figures in their study. Of interest was the statistic from the UK that suggests that around 1-in-5 women in long term relationships has had an affair, with similar figures reported from other developed countries.

The study said that the true prevalence of paternal discrepancy is important to understand in light of the increasing use of genetic testing for diagnosis, treatment and identification. "In a society where services and life decisions are increasingly influenced by genetics, our approach to [paternal discrepancy] cannot be simply to ignore this difficult issue," the researchers noted. At present, there are few support services to help those affected and little guidance on the disclosure of paternal discrepancy for those working in the healthcare or criminal justice systems.

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