Since the false paternity rate is around 1-2% in any generation, she said the result was not particularly surprising.

Umm, don’t we think it’s rather higher than that? Like 10%?

Although I’ve always thought that that 10% did look a bit high.

17 thoughts on “Hmm”

  1. I’d say its probably less than 10% these days, in the West at least, because of DNA testing, and greater financial benefits available to single mothers, both from the State and the actual father via Child Support.

    The opportunities to cheat are most likely greater today, but the chances of being found out are greater, and men are more likely to demand a paternity test if they suspect foul play. Whereas prior to DNA testing the temptation to just say ‘Congratulations darling, you’re a father!’ knowing it could never be proved one way or another must have been exceedingly great, particularly when the alternative was probably penury and social shame.

  2. Let’s offer an explanation for the test results;

    Richard III: true born Son of the House of York.
    Decedents of Henry Somerset and Patrice de Warren: thank you for volunteering your DNA, you’re all bastards.

    Ho hum

  3. Bastards are the children of the king and a woman who isn’t queen. Any children of the queen are born in wedlock and so not bastards. Which is why queens were watched pretty closely, periods recorded, sheets scrutinized, etc.

    When DNA testing was introduced the results were high, I heard 25% of first borns, which probably is 10% overall. The rate dropped sharply once the test became public knowledge. Interesting insight to female reproductive strategy though.

  4. rlj
    My recollection is that it was 25% of first borns in working class Liverpool, an even narrower sample. (Not sure about this.)

    Here in France DNA testing is highly regulated so in case of dispute everyone posts their DNA to Belgium. Given that you need not only motivation (deny Dad visiting rights; get out of paying child support) but also reasonable suspicion (otherwise why bother with the expense) the “success” rate of only 10% seems extraordinarily low.

  5. You’re probably right, bif, but the numbers add up. One in four first borns divided by average family size, 2.4, gives the 10% figure Tim recalls. My recollection was not a deliberate survey but accidental discoveries, i.e. first born has a medical condition and is DNA tested.

  6. 10% is bollocks.

    If you look at paternity tests, you are considering a group with existing concerns. Figures derived from tests for organ donations (father to offsprings and vice-versa) are less skewed (though possibly skewed in the other direction to a lesser extent) and, IIRC, tend to be closer to the 2-4% range.

  7. Your memory must be failing, Worstall. You’ve been told again and again on these threads that 10% is an urban myth of Murphyesque proportions. There’s yer actual evidence for the 1%-2% figure.

  8. Suppose it is 2%, that’s 1.2 million babies.

    A million men potentially denied the right to father their own child, defrauded out of tens of thousands of pounds. A million offspring potentially giving the wrong answers to medical questionnaires and denied the right to know their real father.

    With the technology available, why would we not expect that if someone is to be named on a birth certificate as a father then they should be proven so by DNA testing?

  9. @magnusw, If a man has any such concern he can simply have the test done himself. There is no need to mandate it, indeed mandating it would be an intrusion.

    For example, lots of cases of eldest daughter ditched by good-for-nothing boyfriend, post-menopausal mother suddenly has a baby and daughter is back on the marriage market.

    Insisting that everything is official would prevent often superior informal arrangements that people come up with themselves from operating.

  10. A woman could be certain of the identity of the father of her child, or have reason to know why there might be a doubt. A man could rarely be certain without DNA testing. It’s hard to see how automatic DNA testing with the results shared beween the mother and assumed father (if he wanted to know) could ever disadvantage the assumed father but might be embarressing for the mother.

    It’s even possible to have twins with different fathers….now that would be embarressing for all concerned…

  11. An American tycoon (Karl Icahn?) found out he wasn’t his son’s father not from DNA but from finding out he was, and always had been, infertile.

    He forgave his wife and is raising the boy as his own. That’s class, in my book.

  12. I actually did this with pedigrees when I was running a project investigating a particular genetic defect in a town in the north of England. That it was in the north and appears to have been brought there by a profligate Greek asylum seeker (also with profligate descendants) some roughly 1000 years ago might please SMFS, who is no doubt convinced of the genetic purity of other Englanders. Most of the pedigrees were old enough to not have known what a paternity test was (or what paternity was – the nurses had such a great line in vague and intimidating technobabble that most people left the clinic totally unaware that there was a cuckoo in the nest).

    Easily-screenable (with the technology we had then – you can do far more amazing stuff now) Mendelian defects lend themselves to this kind of analysis (how many kids have the faulty gene but neither parent has it).I no longer have the exact numbers, but 2% is closer to the truth than 10%.

  13. the indiscretion could potentially undermine the legitimacy of the entire House of Plantagenet.

    I believe Braveheart already established that the warlike Edward III was the bastard love-child of Mel Gibson.

    genemachine – You’re probably right. If a man’s suspicious enough to get a paternity test, chances are higher than normal that his wife has a locked room full of milkmen.

    bloke in france – That’s class, in my book.

    It’s something, all right. I don’t think Carl Icahn is the chap you’re thinking of though.

  14. Bloke in Germany – good job it wasn’t Norfolk.

    They don’t do family trees there. They have family shrubbery.

  15. The latest studies, ranging in date from 1991 to 1999, quote the follow incidence rates: 4.0% (Canada), 2.8% (France), 1.4% and 1.6% (UK), and 11.8% (Mexico), 0.8% (Switzerland).

    So 10% sounds way too high, equally cultural aspects have a lot to do with it, hence Mexico having a fairly high incidence and places like conservative Switzerland having a fairly low incidence.

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