"A matter of opinion" - Unofficial paternity tests and the impacts on children
by Barry Pearson
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It has often been said that:

"Maternity is a matter of fact, paternity is a matter of opinion".

The accuracy of DNA paternity tests changes that. Now there is a different matter of opinion:

"In what circumstances is it acceptable to test paternity?"

This is clearly an ethical minefield. There are up to 4 individual stakeholders: mother, putative father, biological father, and child. These are potentially in conflict.

Some people believe that official paternity tests are a means for women to curb men's freedoms. Some people believe that unofficial paternity tests are a means for men to curb women's freedoms. That is a cultural and emotional debate that will run and run!

But it won't run in this paper. It is probably much safer to concentrate on the impacts on children instead. This paper does so. It examines outcomes, privacies and rights for children.

Some people concerned with children's welfare believe that paternity tests are an intrusion in to children's privacy and are likely to damage their lives. Other people concerned with children's welfare believe that paternity tests help children assert their fundamental human rights and are likely to improve their lives. Clearly such a dispute must be resolved.

The analysis in this paper suggests that paternity tests are beneficial to children overall. It will still be possible to find cases where they have matters worse. An alternative position is that paternity testing must be restricted for the sake of children. That cannot be taken for granted.

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Page last updated: 13 December, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003