Shining a light on paternity uncertainty: the truth about misattributed parentage


For most Australians, they live their life feeling confident in their biological relationships. However, some Australians are caught in a wave of uncertainty, with doubts about their biological ties to their parent or child.

In fact, at Identilab, a large proportion of our business revolves around paternity testing, with it being more accessible and easier to do than previously. Approximately 92% of our testing is for paternity, whether it’s for peace of mind, family law, or immigration purposes.

Misattributed paternity is when a man is wrongly thought, by himself and possibly by others, to be the biological father of a child. Unlike women who give birth, men do not have the luxury of knowing that the child is their own without DNA testing. I think people would be surprised how often a paternity test is required to prove a child and father are related.

Our data reveals that 5% of parents and 6% of children believe they have been impacted by misattributed paternity. Families come to us looking to assess the biological relationship between an alleged father and child and seek answers to remove doubt and find the truth.

In fact, of those who have turned to DNA testing through our laboratory after questioning the paternity of a child, approximately 22% were excluded as being the biological father.

While there are many reasons for Australians wanting to confirm their paternal relationship, we see countless people come to us who have met someone through a dating app, fallen pregnant and need confirmation of who the father is.

We also know that approximately 60% of men and 45% of women admit to having an affair during the course of their marriage, while 70% of all marriages experience an affair. Coupled with our data, which finds that almost one in five (17%) Australian men have felt deceived as a result of their family dynamic, people turn to paternity testing when there is a question mark around a father’s legitimacy.

As well as dads being suspicious they may not be their child’s biological father, we’ve also seen the rising popularity of ancestry kits having an impact on the number of people requiring a DNA test. Particularly after Christmas, people get an ancestry kit for a bit of fun, only to discover a skeleton in their family closet.

We often experience men being extremely emotional when they reach out. Misattributed paternity can be a difficult topic to unpack, often changing a person’s life forever, creating complex relationships and having long-term effects on multiple parties within a family unit and their mental wellbeing.

The majority of our customers are often very overwhelmed by the situation that they have found themselves in. It’s not unusual for us to spend 20-30 minutes on the phone with someone just listening to their story and offering kindness.

It is very stressful to find yourself in a position where you are questioning whether your child or your parent is yours. A negative result can be received in a variety of ways. Some people are relieved, while others are obviously quite devastated.

Understandably, any questions surrounding parentage can also have a detrimental psychological impact on both a parent and a child. We often recommend to people that they get in contact with their GP, counselling service, faith leader, or trusted friend to help them process the information and move forward

For Australians who may be experiencing doubts and uncertainty about their family dynamic, we encourage them to seek answers through a DNA test and to also seek mental health support where needed. A paternity test generally takes five business days and requires a saliva swab from the parent and the child. For more information head to https://identilab.com.au/.

Related: Expanding DNA analysis beyond forensic roots

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Kate is a Forensic Scientist and the Founder of Identilab, a Brisbane-based DNA testing facility. Having worked across both the government and private sectors in a variety of roles, Kate has extensive experience and provides a voice of authority in the forensic and DNA testing sectors.
Founding Identilab in 2016, the organisation offers Australia’s most reliable DNA testing for legal purposes including family law and immigration requirements, in addition to peace of mind tests. They provide a range of DNA tests to see if two or more people are related to each other, such as paternity testing to see if a man is the father of a child, maternity testing to see if a woman is the mother of a child, and other family relationships like siblings, aunt/uncle–niece/nephew, and grandparents–grandchildren.


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