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Men Unknowingly Raising Another Man's Child

(105 Posts)
Severin Mon 08-Aug-11 11:36:11

"Research suggests that, as cases of teenage pregnancies, sexual infidelity and multiple partners increase, 1 in 25 fathers could unknowingly be raising another man’s child.

With improvements in genetic testing, thousands of fathers every year are discovering that “their” child is someone else’s. A study by scientists from Liverpool John Moores University concludes that 4 per cent of all men are unwittingly bringing up a child they have not fathered.

The researchers, led by Mark Bellis, of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool, analysed a wide range of international studies, looking at estimates of paternal discrepancy between 1950 and 2004.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, show that rates of cases where a father was not the biological father of his child ranged from 1 per cent in some studies to as many as 30 per cent. Experts generally agree that the rate is below 10 per cent. The Liverpool team said that their meta-analysis suggests a 4 per cent rate, meaning that about one in 25 families could be affected.

“For any father, identifying that the child they are raising as their biological progeny is actually sired by another man can have substantial health consequences,” the researchers said.

“Such knowledge can also destroy families, affecting the health of the child and mother as well as that of any man who is ultimately identified as the biological parent.”


Bearing in mind, some of these might be genuine mistakes. But there are also many women who lie about who got them pregnant so to choose a better father figure/husband, or to hide infidelity. And at the heart of this is not just fathers who are raising someone else's child, but children who do not know their true parentage - a basic human right as far as I'm concerned. This can lead to traumatic psychological issues, and prevent them from knowing what health risks they might be genetically disposed towards - so lack of knowledge of true parentage could prove fatal for the child.

Questions -
1. If men could somehow trick a woman into raising another woman's child, how would they feel? Would they feel the man deserved punishment, even legal consequences?

2. If one if four families are affected, would you agree that compulsory DNA testing should be used on all new births? Again, imagine if it was women who were unwittingly bringing up another woman's child.

3. Do you agree that it is one of women's greatest responsibilities to be honest about whose child they are carrying, and any woman that lies about it is committing a hugely immoral act?

HerdOfTinyElephants Mon 08-Aug-11 11:48:25

Doesn't it say 1 in 25 families, i.e. 4%, not "one in four families"?

KRIKRI Mon 08-Aug-11 11:48:51

1. Because the scenario is virtually impossible without the woman's consent (e.g. implanted with a donor egg,) I don't think it's possible to speculate on theoretical outcomes for men. Personally speaking, I don't think punishment or legal consequences should be involved in any case.

2. No, I don't believe compulsory DNA testing should be required for new births. Many parents would not want this and it would be of little benefit to the parents or the child. If a parent is concerned, then they are at liberty to request a test. In a similar vein, some US states at least used to require engaged couples to have tests for sexually transmitted diseases before being granted a marriage license. I knew many couples who married in other states because they did not agree with this practice.

3. No, I think it is up to the adults involved to decide the nature of their relationships, what they choose to share or not share and whether they are happy to enter into a relationship on the basis of this. There are many things that men do to women that could be seen as "immoral" and many things that women so to men that could likewise be considered so, but there is no point in having a "Morality Olympics" and trying to award a collective gold medal to the gender we see as most deceptive.

For the record, I know two men who were fathers to children that were not their biological children. One (my nephew) knew from the outset and still married and cared for the boy as his own, although he chose not to tell even immediate family about this. It only came out when the bio Dad (control freak ex of his wife) came back on the scene and demanded his "right" to see his son that it came to light when he sued in court for that right. My nephew stuck to his guns and still regards the boy as his son, although he's now split form the boy's mother and is remarried. In the other case, the guy found out much later, when his relationship with the mother was breaking down. It made no difference to his relationship with his daughter.

Medical concerns about not knowing who your bio parents are would be no different here than they would be for a child who was conceived through donor insemination or was adopted.

Severin Mon 08-Aug-11 11:53:50

"Doesn't it say 1 in 25 families, i.e. 4%, not "one in four families"?"

Sorry, yes it does. my mistake.

AMumInScotland Mon 08-Aug-11 12:05:21

"Would you agree that compulsory DNA testing should be used on all new births" No. Because we are all innocent until there is a reason to suspect that we may be guilty - if someone has reason to think there may be an issue, they can have a test done at that stage. Starting a child's life in an atmosphere of mistrust is not helpful to anyone, and should only happen when there is already doubt.

Severin Mon 08-Aug-11 12:11:08


1. I am asking you to imagine a hypothetical situaion, not a possible one. And in that situation, if you found your partner had lied to you about who was the true mother of one of your children, you'd be fine with that? Don't you think some consequences in such a situation might prevent more cases?

2. It would surely be in the interests of father and child in those 4% of cases - though other studies suggest 30% - (ie 35 000 - 250 000 cases last year) Most men will not request a paternity test as they have no idea they might not be the father.

3. It's not a morality olympics to agree that deceiving a partner about a child being his when it isn't is immoral. So you think it's not?

Adopted children may have no chance of having their medical risks known to them - in the case of deception they are being withheld from them by the mother's actions, and could otherwise be available to them - and save their life..

SuchProspects Mon 08-Aug-11 12:20:00

I could only see the point in compulsory DNA testing if all men were required to register their DNA. I don't see how it benefits children to be put through a process that can only have a negative immediate impact them.

I also think equating genetics to "true parentage" is a step backwards for us. We are often better, as humans, for our ability to step beyond our Darwinian roots. I think the way we build families based on hopes and dreams as much as a desire to propagate is one of the ways we show our humanity.

None of which makes me think it is right to deliberately deceive, but I doubt that many of the cases are deliberate deceptions (though I'm MIT sure how you'd ever know for sure).

SuchProspects Mon 08-Aug-11 12:21:56

MIT = not
I blame my phone blush

HandDivedScallopsrgreat Mon 08-Aug-11 12:30:38

Compulsory DNA testing? Sounds yet another way for men to try and control women (more to the point the fact that they are the ones that bear children) and the children themselves. As SuchProspects says being a parent is way more than genetics.

Severin Mon 08-Aug-11 12:40:03

"I don't see how it benefits children to be put through a process that can only have a negative immediate impact them."

They would be tested at birth. They could then know their real father. This is also in the interests - to put it mildly - of the real father and the man who is otherwise going to be raising someone else's child, a fact that may well come out later and cause more severe negative consequences. And you are ignoring the medical advantages (knowing if you are pre-disposed to any medical conditions).

And I put it again - if women were the ones often unknowingly raising another womans child, possibly because the father deceived them, women would very likely have a different opinion on this.

AMumInScotland Mon 08-Aug-11 12:53:04

So - parents have child A and child B tested at birth, and both are genetically the "father"s. They have a third child C - tested - not his - family is destroyed, and the "health of the mother and children" are affected. Is it in the interests of children A and B that there was compulsory genetic testing?

Is it in the interests of child C - who may never have any actual relationship with their biological father?

Is it in the interests of the father - perhaps he didn't even want to know. Perhaps he was aware there was a risk, they'd had a bad patch, they all want to put it behind them. He might relaise there was a risk child C wasn't his, but prefer to keep his head in the sand about it, never actually "knowing" so that he could treat the child as his own and all move on together.

FannyPriceless Mon 08-Aug-11 12:54:10

Don't be ridiculous! Imagine what that would do to the aristocracy! Titled men have been 'unknowingly' bringing up other men's children for centuries.

The wife was(still is?) expected to produce an heir by whatever means necessary. And if that means a dalliance with the head gardener - as long as the outcome is achieved everyone is happy.

Also, think how many plot lines of great novels and films would be destroyed by this initiative.

No, no, no!


SuchProspects Mon 08-Aug-11 12:54:56

But unless all men had their DNA registered, the baby wouldn't know their "real" father any more than they currently do. 1 in 25 (less maybe if that's a figure for families rather than individuals) would simply know who their "real" father wasn't. And instead of having two people celebrating over their arrival they'd have two people in shock and turmoil. I just don't see how that would generally be good, even if it saved some from turmoil in later years.

As to how I'd feel if I found out my children weren't genetically related to me (it's possible, we had IVF so a mistake, or nefarious doings could have meant I ended up carrying someone else's child) - I can't see it making much difference. Really. I am absolutely in love with them and it would devastate me if some other woman tried to claim them as hers. I do think if I found out DH had had an affair to have them I would be emotionally crushed trying to reconcile my anger at him and my love of my girls. But that's about my relationship with him, not with my children.

pozzled Mon 08-Aug-11 13:13:26

What you're talking about is a HUGE huge interference in a couple's relationship- getting an external agency to administer a compulsory test to find out whether a woman has been unfaithful. Can you administer a similar test to find out if a man has slept around? Of course not.

1) Yes, women would be crushed by their partner's betrayal. As most people are when they find out their partner was unfaithful.

2)No way. Incredibly expensive; presumption of guilt rather than innocence; infringement of civil liberty; raises concerns about what would then happen to the DNA profile and I honestly don't think it would benefit the child or parents in most cases.

3) Yes, I do think that for a woman to knowingly lie about her child's father is immoral. But 'one of women's greatest responsibilities'? No. Her greatest responsibilities are the same as the father's- to keep themselves and their children safe, raise them to be decent, well-adjusted individuals, respect other people etc etc.

Bandwithering Mon 08-Aug-11 13:17:45

I agree with pozzled's first paragraph. And actually 1) 2) and 3) as well!

Very few women do this. iT'S extrememly rare. Don't know anybody who would have the brass neck to try and pass off somebody else's child/ren as their partner's.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Mon 08-Aug-11 13:19:49

Are teenage pregnancies, sexual infidelity and multiple partners on the rise, then? Because that sounds awfully unsubstantiated, to me.

QueenOfFeckingEverything Mon 08-Aug-11 13:23:25

I think a FAR bigger problem is the number of men who father children and then proceed to have fuck all to do with them and make no contribution to them whatsoever. Something like 60% of absent parents pay nothing towards their child's upbringing.

Compulsory DNA testing at birth would go a long way to rectifying this situation but I don't see anyone suggesting it for those reasons - only when it would be in mens' best interests does this become suggested hmm

Miggsie Mon 08-Aug-11 13:25:11

Who would benefit from this testing?

And, of course, men can only be expected to bring up their own proven child, God forbid we brought up children because of love etc etc. Let's go to the old Roman system where a man either acknowleged his child (his wife or their slave had to lay it at his feet after the birth) by picking it up or threw it to the dogs if he didn't want it. Yes, those lovely old Romans thought throwing a new born child to a pack of dogs to eat was a right of the Pater Familias.

How about all the women bringing up men's children in which the man contributes nothing? A much bigger problem as we all know.

Severin Mon 08-Aug-11 13:29:02

Very rare? One report says up to 30%. That's maybe 250 000 cases a year.

giyadas Mon 08-Aug-11 13:31:49

and one report says 1%. If the experts generally agree it's under 10%, why would you jump on the 30% figure?

BelleDameSansMerci Mon 08-Aug-11 13:33:53

Miggsie is spot on...

pozzled Mon 08-Aug-11 13:34:37

Do you think that it is more common than fathers who disappear and deny all their responsibilities? Or parents who are break up the family home by making immoral choices after the children are born? Or parents who neglect/abuse their children?

No matter how common it is (and I don't believe it's anything like 30%) it's not the biggest parenting issue. And DNA testing wouldn't be a good thing for all the reasons given above.

KRIKRI Mon 08-Aug-11 13:35:43

Excellent Points, Miggsie, and I also agree with Pozzled's 3 points.

Severin, are you going to tell us what your objective is with this thread, or is it going to be one of those slow reveal things?

Severin Mon 08-Aug-11 13:36:53

"Let's go to the old Roman system where a man either acknowleged his child (his wife or their slave had to lay it at his feet after the birth) by picking it up or threw it to the dogs if he didn't want it. "

Sure, that's the only alternative... no need to be silly.

'Who would benefit from this system?' Read my posts please. The children who would not call someone daddy who is not - and can easily and do find out the truth later in life. And the medical issues, see above. And the 'father's who deserve to know if their children are really theirs. And the real fathers, if possible, who deserve to know they have children.

If it was somehow the other way round, it would definitely be a 'feminist issue' and women would be demanding an automatic right to know if the baby was theirs or not.

Severin Mon 08-Aug-11 13:41:07

"Severin, are you going to tell us what your objective is with this thread, or is it going to be one of those slow reveal things?"

The objective is clear, to canvass opinions on the high number of men raising other men's children, and what could be done about it. This is a parenting issue is it not?

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