Does father know best?

April 17, 2006

A 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.
-end-
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.

University of Chicago Press Journals

Related Fatherhood Articles from Brightsurf:

Study highlights keys to helping dads be there for kids when they don't have custody
A recent study highlights several factors that play key roles in determining the extent to which fathers who don't have custody are involved in their children's lives - specifically in cases where the children are in ''kinship care.''

Fathers are more likely to be referred for nutrition or exercise counseling
Fatherhood status has been linked to medical providers' weight-related practices or counseling referrals.

The mental health of fathers of babies born very prematurely
Following the journey of 100 fathers of babies born before 30 weeks' gestation, the study found that almost one in five fathers experienced high depressive symptoms, and approximately half of all fathers experienced moderate anxiety symptoms that persisted throughout the first year of their baby's life.

A new explanation for the origins of human fatherhood
The origins of paternal care, a key differentiator between humans and other primates, have long been tied to ancestral females trading their own sexual fidelity for food provided by their mates.

Study of African society inspires broad thinking about human paternity, fidelity
A new study from UCLA professor of anthropology Brooke Scelza invites geneticists and sociologists to think more broadly about human fidelity and paternity.

Glimpses of fatherhood found in non-pair-bonding chimps
Although they have no way of identifying their biological fathers, male chimpanzees form intimate bonds with them, a finding that questions the idea of fatherhood in some of humanity's closest relatives, according to a study of wild chimpanzees in Uganda.

DNA data offers scientific look at 500 years of extramarital sex in Western Europe
Researchers have put DNA evidence together with long-term genealogical data to explore questions of biological fatherhood on a broad scale among people living in parts of Western Europe over the last 500 years.

Fish fathers exhibit signatures of 'baby brain' that may facilitate parental care behavior
Many new parents are familiar with terms like 'baby brain' or 'mommy brain' that hint at an unavoidable decline in cognitive function associated with the hormonal changes of pregnancy, childbirth, and maternal caregiving.

Fathering children by assisted reproduction linked to increased risk of prostate cancer
Men who became fathers through assisted reproduction techniques seem to be at higher risk for prostate cancer and early onset prostate cancer compared with men achieving fatherhood naturally, concludes a study published by The BMJ today.

From the tiny testes of flies, new insight into how genes arise
A common birthplace of new genes, the male testes are a hotspot for biological innovation.

Read More: Fatherhood News and Fatherhood Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.