Wednesday, July 23, 2008

DNA tests show that 20% of paternity doubts are justified

Suspicious blokes who request paternity tests are mostly wrong and about 80 per cent are found to be the real father, new Queensland research suggests. While some 80 per cent of men who ask for a test find out they are in fact the father, only just over half had actually expected that result. And the research, conducted by Andrea Hayward, the director of Queensland's only registered DNA testing facility, DNA Qld, shows when a woman asks for a test she often gets the result she predicted.

She says that in Queensland, as many as 1500 paternity tests are carried out each year. Hayward says a growing number of women, particularly younger women, want to confirm paternity of a child before it is born. Hayward adds: "The message about safe sex and contraception is definitely not getting out there."

Hayward will present the preliminary findings of her research, which is ongoing, to the annual scientific meeting of The Australian Society for Psychosocial Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Adelaide next week. She added that other studies had shown that only between one and four per cent of people were mistaken about who their father was.

Hayward says infidelity motivates many of the women who request 20 per cent of the tests. "It is not only the aggrieved potential fathers wanting testing," Hayward says. "Women, while they are pregnant, are now also wanting to confirm paternity of their child. "Many of these women tested have had affairs while in a relationship and need to determine the identity of the genetic father before the child is born. "The majority of these cases confirm the partner as the father, but in the cases where the lover has been determined as the father, these pregnancies have been terminated."

Hayward says that, in Australia, it is believed that at least one in five men who are uncertain about the paternity of their children will have their uncertainty resolved by a test. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that last year there were 12,163 divorces in Queensland. Of those, 3566 were joint applications for divorce, 5020 were lodged by the wife and 3577 by the husband. These findings are consistent with research overseas that shows women are initiating more divorces than men. Rising female infidelity is likely to influence these statistics even more.

Mira Kirshenbaum, a psychotherapist and author of When good people have affairs: Inside the hearts and minds of people in two relationships (St Martin's Press, 2008), says society has to let go of the idea that women are somehow purer, more noble than men. Kirshenbaum says there are several reasons for increases in female infidelity. These include feeling trapped in an unhappy marriage; fewer social repercussions for those who are caught and greater opportunity as more women work outside the home.


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