In this day and age paternity disputes and doubts are far from unheard of. There are many statistics about paternity testing although of course, not all are equally reliable. The American Association of Blood Banks, a more reliable source of information, gives an estimate of the number of paternity tests carried out in 2003 as being somewhere around 354,000. So let us take a better look and see 5 different ways in which one can establish whether an alleged father is really the biological father of a child.
Paternity testing is the most reliable and accurate way of determining whether man X is the biological father of a child or perhaps children. Ideally, whatever the scenario paternity testing will always be the first recommendation. If the alleged father is willing to be tested and the child too, then all is well and good. DNA samples need to be collected from the putative father and child using oral swabs. Once the samples are collected, it is time for the laboratories to analyze them to see whether the father and the child really have identical DNA profiles, thereby confirming that he is the biological father. Unfortunately, there are countless cases where the alleged father is unavailable or unwilling to be tested (or perhaps dead). In such cases, there are other tests which can be carried out.
When the alleged father cannot, for some reason or other, take part in the paternity test, the next best option is to carry out a DNA test between siblings. There are various types of sibling tests which can tell you whether you and another person have the same biological dad or different biological fathers. Of course, siblings might not always agree to being tested (especially is they might stand to lose financially should the results of the test show that you are related to the deceased father). Moreover, there are different sibling tests because people of different sexes have difference chromosomes. Thus, a test between only male siblings will be different to a test carried out between solely females. Further to this, a mixed sibling test will be needed if both males and females are going to participate in the DNA test.
Aunt/ uncle Testing
Testing the alleged father’s siblings with the alleged father’s child is another alternative to a DNA paternity test. The result of an aunt/uncle test with their alleged niece or nephew is not, however, always accurate even if they are truly biological relatives. The amount of common genetic material between aunts or uncles with their nieces of nephews is of around 25%. This said, in some cases, biological relatives might have barely any common DNA. Conversely, there may be instances where the amount of common DNA exceeds 25% by far. Depending on the gender of all the people involved in the test, there may be other more accurate and sometimes cheaper options to consider (for example, X chromosome or Y chromosome testing).
A DNA test can be carried out to confirm whether grandparents are related to their grandchild. Of course, if they are not related then the implications are that the grandchild’s father is not the biological father either. The test is very accurate if both grandparents are available. If only one grandparent is available you might want to consider different testing options as there is a strong likelihood that you will not have a conclusive answer with this particular test. When both grandparents are available, laboratories can use both their DNA samples to reconstruct the profile of their son (the alleged father). They can then proceed to compare this profile with that of the grandchild to see whether there is a match (confirming paternity) or a mismatch (excluding paternity).
Paternity Testing in Pregnancy
It is also possible to establish paternity in pregnancy in what is called a prenatal paternity test. Using a number of methods including amniocentesis, chronic villus sampling and maternal blood samples, scientists can extract the DNA blueprint of the unborn baby. Prenatal paternity testing can be carried out at around 10 weeks but this depends very much on the type sample collection used. Many prenatal paternity testing also pose certain risks. For example, amniocentesis can result in miscarriage because the sample collection involves inserting a needle into the womb. The needle can sometimes harm the fetus and lead to miscarriage.
Mark Rogerson is a graduate in forensic science who has received his education in both the US and the UK. Mark has currently taken a backseat in the world of academia and dedicated himself to his two kids. He currently works as a free lance writer from home during his free time. The author normally specializes in writing about genetics and forensic science. More articles by Mark Rogerson can be found by visiting: http://www.easydna.co.nz/dnanews.php.