Does father know best?
Study explores how accurately men gauge biological paternityA study forthcoming in the June 2006 issue of Current Anthropology sheds new light a contentious issue: How accurate are men's suspicions of whether or not they are a child's biological father? Some studies have suggested that up to 10 percent of fathers are not the biological parents of their alleged child, but little is known about how this differs across cultures and to what extent men's paternity assessments reflect actual biological paternity.
"The issue of paternity--whether a man really is the biological father of his supposed children--has long been a topic of interest to anthropologists, as well as a staple subject of idle gossip," writes Kermyt G. Anderson (University of Oklahoma and the Center for Applied Social Research). "Paternity confidence has important implications for a man's involvement with his children, since men are less likely to interact with and support children whom they do not believe to be theirs."
Anderson compared the paternity test results for men with high paternity confidence to the results for men with low paternity confidence in an effort to determine how perceptions of fatherhood correlate to fact. He found that, overall, men who were confident about their fatherhood going into the test were only wrong 1.7 percent of the time, that is, they were indeed the child's father more than 98 percent of the time. Men who were dubious about their fatherhood – specifically men who contested paternity through paternity tests – were more frequently not the father of the child, but only in 29.8 percent of cases. More than 70 percent of the time, men who doubted their paternity were wrong.
Anderson also organized the data geographically, breaking down nonpaternity rates in different countries according to high and low paternity confidence. Among those for who paternity confidence was relatively high, actual nonpaternity is highest in Mexico and lowest among the Kohanim lineages of Sephardic Jews.
Sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Current Anthropology is a transnational journal devoted to research on humankind, encompassing the full range of anthropological scholarship on human cultures and on the human and other primate species. Communicating across the subfields, the journal features papers in a wide variety of areas, including social, cultural, and physical anthropology as well as ethnology and ethnohistory, archaeology and prehistory, folklore, and linguistics. For more information, please see our Web site: www.journals.uchicago.edu/CA
Kermyt G. Anderson. "How well does paternity confidence match actual paternity? Evidence from worldwide paternity rates." Current Anthropology 47:3.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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