For generations, identifying the father of a child was often only a matter of guesswork–the genetic code and the scientific methods used to isolate and identify it were unknown. In recent decades, a greater understanding of DNA has made it possible for the parents and close relatives of a child to be quickly and correctly identified. DNA paternity tests are an inexpensive and discreet way to determine a child’s father.
What are paternity tests?
A DNA paternity test uses a sample of tissue from a child, the child’s alleged father, and the mother to determine if the man is the child’s biological father. The tissues, obtained by swabbing inside the cheeks of all three individuals (the mother’s swab is optional but is recommended to yield the most accurate results possible), are then packaged and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
After three to five business days, test results can be obtained by phone, mail or viewed online.
Are paternity tests accurate?
Because the administration and interpretation of DNA paternity tests are not complicated, their accuracy rate is extremely high, usually within the range of 98 to 99 percent.
Where are tests performed?
Where a DNA paternity test is performed depends on whether the information about the child’s father is needed for legal reasons or simply for personal information. Home testing kits purchased from the drugstore are sufficient if the information is not needed for chain of custody documentation. If, however, legal DNA testing is needed, the samples taken from the child, mother and alleged father will need to be taken at the collection site of a diagnostic paternity testing center.
Types of paternity tests
While postnatal paternity tests using DNA from a cheek tissue sample are the cheapest and most common DNA paternity tests used, prenatal DNA testing is another option.
Prenatal DNA testing can be performed in one of two ways: an amniocentesis conducted between the 14th and 20th weeks of the first trimester of pregnancy, or the use of chorionic villus sampling, which uses a sample of the villi lining the uterus to obtain DNA for testing. Unlike postnatal paternity testing, prenatal testing requires the permission of a physician.
Testing pros and cons
DNA paternity tests are private, quick, painless and inexpensive. If there is any doubt about the father of a child, there is no easier way to determine the answer. However, the use of DNA paternity tests administered at home is subject to legal debates since there is no guarantee that the results would be upheld in a court of law.