When you order a DNA paternity test, what do you expect it to tell you? DNA paternity testing has become so mainstream, and the technology is now so advanced, that some people may expect results to show not only the paternity results, but also specific details and characteristics about each participant. In truth, the reality of what you learn is somewhere in between. Here’s a quick primer on what a DNA paternity test can – and can’t – tell you.
What a DNA Paternity Test CAN Tell You
Whether or not a possible father is considered the biological father
This is the whole purpose of using DNA as a testing method for paternity, and it’s by far the most reliable and cost-effective way to determine whether or not a possible father is the biological father. Positive results typically give a probability of paternity of 99.99% (or higher!), and negative results are always 0%. There’s no room for doubt with results like these. When a child’s DNA is tested directly with the possible father’s DNA, a definitive determination one way or the other is almost always the outcome. If you need help analyzing results, our experts are there to help.
A participant’s sex
One of the things checked during a DNA paternity test is whether or not the participant is male or female. This is extremely helpful for a variety of reasons. For example, let’s say someone who orders a test is trying to determine the paternity of their son. When samples are tested, if a technician determines the DNA is from a female instead of a male, the lab can contact the person who ordered a test and ask for a clarification of who the sample belongs to or ask for a sample recollection, if needed. Sometimes DNA gets mislabeled by a client or even contaminated, and so determining a participant’s sex during the testing process is an essential step.
What a DNA Paternity Test CAN’T Tell You
If a possible father has sent in his buddy’s DNA instead of his own
When you use an AABB-accredited lab like DDC (parent company of HomeDNA Paternity), DNA paternity test results are guaranteed accurate, based on the samples the lab is given. So if a possible father swabs his friend’s cheek for DNA and sends it in under the possible father’s name, the lab assumes on good faith that it is really him and will give report results accordingly. To prevent this kind of fraud, participants (possible father, mother, child) can all collect DNA samples in the same room and send them in together or pay a little extra for a court-admissible legal paternity test, where all collections and submissions are supervised by an impartial third-party.
A participant’s age
Sometimes if there are two possible fathers and those fathers are biologically-related, people think a paternity test can determine which one is the father based on the ‘age’ of the ‘real father’s’ DNA. The truth is it’s not that simple. The only way to determine someone’s age based on their DNA would be to compare a sample taken at birth with a current sample (The Tech). And even that would be an educated guess.
Who the biological father is, if the two possible fathers are identical twins
Identical twins are unique in the population in that they have almost exactly the same DNA. There are 15 genetic markers used for a ‘regular’ test. In order to determine which identical twin is the father, the entire genome sequence for both men would have to be analyzed. This can add up to as many as six billion markers! This makes paternity testing practically impossible and definitely impractical (from a cost perspective) for most people.
If you are the grandparent (or aunt, uncle, brother, sister, cousin, etc.)
The HomeDNA Paternity home kit is designed for determining the relationship between a potential father and child, which is why the testing fee figures prominently on the box. A paternity test for this price must include the potential father’s samples. If you are trying to connect the dots and determine paternity without the father, you can still use the swabs in the kit to collect DNA from biological family members. Keep in mind, however, that you now are no longer doing a paternity test: you are doing “family reconstruction” testing. This involves testing family members with the child in question to determine a biological relationship and requires much more extensive analysis. For this reason, pricing starts at $399. To see what your options are, we highly recommend you contact us for more information about paternity testing without the father.
The Bottom Line
There’s nothing more accurate or cost-effective than a DNA test to determine paternity. It’s just essential to keep in mind that results for this type of test are very specific in their intent: They are designed to tell you whether or not a possible father has a biological relationship with the child in question. Period. If you have other questions that could be answered via DNA, such as whether you are the grandparent, then other types of testing might be the best choice for you.
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“Understanding Genetics.” Understanding Genetics. The Tech Museum of Innovation, 29 Apr. 2004. Web. 02 Dec. 2015. <http://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask8>.”What Is a Prenatal Paternity Test?” – Health Questions. Gov.UK, 28 July 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. <http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/what-is-a-prenatal-paternity-test.aspx?CategoryID=61&SubCategoryID=615>.