What percentage of paternity tests are negative?
Determining the percentage of negative paternity tests is complicated, as there is no centralized database tracking all paternity tests conducted. However, estimates can be made based on available data.
Why Paternity Tests are Conducted
There are a few key reasons why paternity testing may be pursued:
- Relationship doubts: Suspicions over the paternity of a child within a relationship can motivate testing.
- Child support cases: Courts often order paternity testing to assign financial responsibility.
- Genealogy/inheritance: Paternity confirmation may be needed for legal proceedings over estates or determining medical history.
- Immigration: Establishing biological relationships is required for certain immigration petitions.
The reason for the test impacts the likelihood of a negative result. Relationship-based tests estimate higher rates of non-paternity compared to court-ordered tests.
Estimated Rates of Negative Paternity Tests
Estimates on false paternity rates vary substantially:
- 30%: A commonly cited statistic is that around 30% of paternity tests come back showing the alleged father is not the biological father. This number likely overestimates national numbers.
- 1-2%: On the other end, some estimates calculate the non-paternity rate at 1-2% based on court-ordered paternity test data. However, this likely underestimates the rate due to selection bias in these cases.
- 16-28%: More methodologically robust studies estimate the non-paternity rate is between 16 to 28% for samples that include both court-ordered testing and private relationship-based testing.
Based on current research, a reasonable estimate seems to be a 20% average non-paternity rate on paternity tests in the United States. However, this rate can vary substantially based on the reason for pursuing testing and selection factors in the sample population.
When Test Results are Negative
There can be significant implications when paternity tests come back demonstrating the alleged father is not biologically related to the child:
- Emotional impact: Discovery of misattributed paternity often causes distress and relationship turmoil. Genetic counselors are sometimes engaged to help families process the news.
- Legal issues: Negative paternity tests prompt revisions to child support orders, custody arrangements, inheritance claims, and birth certificates. New testing may be ordered before final rulings.
- Medical uncertainty: Lack of knowledge of the biological father can impact understanding of a child’s complete genetic health history. Additional genetic screening may provide some insights.
Whileeroo rare, some negative paternity tests are found to be inaccurate due to technical errors in the testing process. Guidelines advise confirming results with a second, independently-conducted test when feasible.
Factors That Influence Test Outcomes
Some factors that can influence the percentage of negative paternity test results include:
- Age at testing: Non-paternity rates decline as the age of the child increases.
- Geography: Available data shows substantial variation in misattributed paternity rates in different regions and countries.
- Family history: Men born to parents in marriages with misattributed paternity appear more likely to have negative paternity test results themselves.
- Test accuracy: Extremely rare false negative test results are possible due to human error in the testing process. Strict quality control measures minimize occurrences.
While paternity testing has inherent complexities, analysts agree that available data shows misattributed paternity occurs frequently enough to be considered a common phenomenon impacting a substantial minority of tested families.
Handled sensitively, unexpected test results can ultimately strengthen relationships grounded in trust, understanding, and acceptance.