In the last 10 years, paternity testing has entered the mainstream of American life thanks to huge improvements in DNA test analysis methodology. In fact, anyone can pick up a paternity test at their local drugstore or super center for about $25, collect DNA samples (using cheek swabs) from the comfort of their own home, and then send samples in to be tested. So easy!
If it’s so easy and inexpensive, why doesn’t everyone who has a nagging doubt about paternity take advantage of this test? In our experience as a respected, seasoned DNA testing lab, many of our clients tell us they were initially held back by fear: fear of the long-term consequences of knowing the truth, of possible changes in their relationships the results could bring, and more. However, once they make the decision to face their doubts and go through with the test, they are inevitably glad they did—no matter the results.
There are three participants involved in any paternity test: mother, potential father and child. If you’re struggling with whether or not to get answers, here are 3 critical ways paternity testing can benefit each and/or all of you.
Reason 1: Paternity testing strengthens a sense of self-identity
No one can argue that children who have supportive adults in their lives as they grow up have more opportunities for healthy development. Stepparents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and teachers can all be valuable role models and guides to children. But according to an ethics article on PsychologyToday.com, some experts insist that the need for children (and indeed, adults) to know their biological parents is deep and unrelenting.The argument goes like this:
‘Parents have an obligation to foster identity-formation in their children. Knowing one’s biological parents yields self-knowledge that has significant and irreplaceable value with respect to such identity formation. Therefore, it is immoral to intentionally [raise] children that do not know both of their biological parents. (Austin).’
Even if it’s not healthy (or possible) for a child to have a personal relationship with a biological father, knowing who that father is fosters their sense of self-identity and emotional well-being.
Reason 2: A paternity test establishes rights to benefits
A child or adult may be entitled to possible benefits from both parents. Unless legal paternity has been established, chances are good that those benefits would be denied in most states. Some of these benefits can be life-changing and may include:
- Inheritance Rights
- Life Insurance
- Veteran’s Benefits
- Social Security from a parent who is deceased or disabled
The DNA test sample collection process for a legal paternity test has different requirements than an at-home ‘peace of mind’ test. In order to be court-admissible, a third-party neutral individual (Collector) must be in charge of the collections process from start to finish. A Collector records participants’ IDs and takes their photos, swabs cheeks (or supervises swabbing), then mails the samples directly to the lab. This ensures an impartial ‘chain of custody’ process that prevents fraud. The court can be confident that all participants in the DNA test are who they say they are and results can be deemed legally sound.
Legal benefits for a mother: A legal test can support her claims for child support from the biological father.
Legal benefits for an alleged father: A legal test can protect a man from fraudulent child-support claims by the mother, thereby saving him from supporting a child who isn’t biologically his (unless he wants to).
Reason 3: A paternity test helps establish medical histories
The medical community recognizes that genetics can play an important role in a person’s health. Knowing both biological parents’ medical histories can be a critical factor in the accurate diagnosis and treatment of certain conditions or diseases.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states, ‘Genetics . . . play a profound role in health and disease and impact every child and family in a pediatric practice. The primary care pediatrician’s role is integral to the evaluation and management of patients with genetic conditions, potentially genetic-related conditions, and common disorders with a genetic basis, through the effective use of family health history, expert referrals, and genetic testing.’
A child-and adults too-has a ‘healthy interest’ in knowing his or her biological father’s family medical history. To put it plainly, it could someday mean the difference between life and death.
The bottom line
These are just a few of the many reasons why establishing paternity is important. If you or someone close to you has a nagging paternity question, maybe the best reason of all for finally getting that paternity test is that it brings peace of mind.
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Bibliography & Resources
Austin, Michael. “Parents, Children, and Biological Ties.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 12 Feb. 2012. Web. 16 Sept. 2015. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ethics-everyone/201202/parents-children-and-biological-ties>.
“Indiana Department of Child Services.” DCS: Establishing Paternity for the Mother. Indiana Department of Child Services, n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2015. <http://www.in.gov/dcs/2486.htm>.
“Think Genetics! Daily Use in Pediatric Primary Care.” Genetics in Primary Care Institute. American Academy of Pediatrics, n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.