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The trouble with misattributed paternity

When fathers in Florida discover that the child they raised as their own is not their flesh and blood, they are often devastated. Some fathers find it difficult to bond with the child after learning this, causing the child to suffer for a mistake that was not their own. Others may seek separation from the mother.

In some instances, both parents know the father is not a biological parent, and it is the child who is shocked by the disclosure. This may happen if a man begins a relationship with a woman shortly after she became pregnant for a former partner, or if a man is sterile and opted for a sperm donation or similar arrangement with his partner.

According to an article on Science Direct, scientists and medical practitioners see misappropriated paternity as such a delicate issue that most decide not to tell the father. In fact, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, up to 96% of genetic counselors and medical geneticists would opt not to disclose this to the father. A 2015 study also cited by the article showed that not much has changed. Researchers believed the potential harmful effects of disclosing this would far outweigh any benefits.

According to CNN, some men’s rights groups now call for the expansion of DNA testing to find paternity fraud. The news agency notes that in these cases, men were as concerned for kinship as for exposing the alleged sexual duplicity of women. The Nazis also had a similar obsession with paternity testing, particularly because of a fixation on race and racial heritage. In fact, learning about racial heritage is arguably the top non-medical reason people get DNA tested today.

Whether a father should be told if his child is not his biological offspring remains a touchy issue. On the one hand, a man may deserve to know if his partner has been unfaithful or lied throughout the relationship. Meanwhile, some may not wish to know. On the other hand, the main casualty of these disclosures is always the most innocent party involved, the children.

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