Paternity Testing Creates a Social Revolution
Today’s family is very different from that of 50 years ago. The diversity in family make-up, together with a change in the roles of mother and father may have served to make us feel more independent and in control, but have also contributed to a significant change in the fabric of our family lives. Today:
- 40% of marriages end in divorce
- Couples live together and have children without marrying
- Same-sex couples are legally able to marry and can have children
- Some mothers are putting off having children until their late thirties
- There is still a high percentage of teenage pregnancy and motherhood
- Women are choosing to have children through sperm donation – with no father involved
Advances in social inclusion and medical science mean that women in particular have more choice about how they live. They can have careers, and put off having children until later in life. They can have a child without being in a relationship, or they can find themselves as single parents because of divorce or separation.
Does a Child Need a Father?
Some schools of thought maintain that fatherhood is now less important than ever – men are marginalised because women don’t always need them for financial support, and are reduced to being sperm donors, with no place in the family life. Like everything, however, fatherhood is a many-sided object:
- Fathers can take additional time off work to spend with their children at birth
- Flexible working allows fathers to spend more time with the family
- More fathers are staying at home whilst the mothers go out to work
- Fathers are often hounded for child support payments when a partnership breaks down
- Fathers have to rely on the mother for confirmation of paternity
If a mother chooses to tell a man he is the father of their children and he has no reason to doubt her, he will love and care for the child, and pay for its upbringing, even if the relationship breaks down. Until recently, he had no way of challenging the mother’s claim with any accuracy.
All that has changed with the increasing availability of the paternity test. Within a few days, the father can be certain about parentage one way or the other, which may liberate him from a costly process, or destroy the relationship he has already built up with his children. A paternity test can provide the father with the evidence he needs to gain access to his child, or can shatter his illusions about his family. There are some men who are as desperate to be fathers as other men are desperate for their freedom – which is not that much different from 50 years ago – except now they have the power to find out about their responsibilities without a shadow of a doubt using a paternity test.