Does Father Know Best?
Study explores how accurately men gauge biological paternity.
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