No Country for Young Fathers: Paternity Testing on the Rise
Long before Maury Povich famously began declaring "you are not the father," young men sought to avoid fatherhood. Thirty years ago, Michael Jackson sang denials that Billie Jean was his lover, while in recent weeks Justin Bieber confirmed he was was no baby's daddy. The rejection of fatherhood is not new, but the number of young men avoiding the title of dad appears to be growing.
In the past few weeks, numbers have been released showing a serious increase in men using DNA testing to determine parental status. In a late November press release it was reported that "according to DDC (DNA Diagnostics Center,) the largest provider of private paternity testing worldwide, questions about paternity testing from men have increased annually and now account for about 40% of all inquiries." The American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), the accreditation organization for paternity testing laboratories, reports that last year there were nearly 500,000 paternity tests done in the United States (compare that to 150,000 in 1995 or 350,000 in 2003). In fact, DNA paternity testing has risen in the United States over 400% in the last two decades. Dr. Michael Baird, chief science officer and DNA technical leader for DDC, said:
As one of the leading companies in DNA testing, we’re seeing an increase in calls by men seeking paternity answers, especially for cases where there are disputes or where chain of custody is important.
Why such a rise in testing? No research has been done, so one can only make an educated guess. Reasons could include greater availability of the technology, the increase in unmarried sex and therefore unplanned pregnancies, less expensive testing, and a better understanding of parental rights. While all these factors surely play a large role, most likely the primary cause of increased testing is that young men, more than ever before, want to avoid fatherhood and the responsibilities that come with it.
Paternity testing used to be far more expensive and only available in hospitals (or on Maury's show). Now a guy can walk into one of the many paternity lab businesses all over the country and get his mouth swabbed to find out if he has any fatherly responsibilities. In fact, you don't have to walk in. Look online and you can order a simple kit to do yourself and then send in to the lab. The tests are 99.9% accurate when done right. Caroline Caskey, CEO of Identigene, said,
Paternity tests used to require blood samples, which were messier and more invasive to obtain than the swab. Also, in the past few years, technology has improved, enabling a lab to complete a test in a few days, rather than the two months it used to take.
Some may argue that the real increase in DNA paternity testing is tied to court cases. In fact, that is one of the main reasons DNA testing has gone up. It has become far more frequent for courts to demand a father take a DNA paternity test. But the majority of those cases are proving fatherhood in order to get a man to fulfill his requirement to pay child support. Court cases are on the rise all over the country tied to child-support. In Illinois from 2008-2010, for example, some suburban counties saw rises in cases in arrears from 24-66 percent. Much of that is tied to a hard economy and men wanting to shirk their responsibilities.