As a family solicitor, I often emphasise to my separating clients the importance of children having a positive relationship with both of their parents. It may seem reasonable to believe that children who are living with their biological families will at least know who both of their parents are. However, some recent research has suggested that this may not always be the case.
What did the research say about father’s views?
I was really surprised to find that the results said that 8% of British fathers have had doubts about whether their children are indeed biologically theirs. The figures varied across the country with Yorkshire and the Humber having the lowest number of fathers doubting paternity (0%) and the North East having the highest number (16%). This regional difference is quite remarkable and it would be interesting for further research to be carried out to identify the reason for this difference – for example, is it because Yorkshire fathers are less likely to admit that they have doubts about paternity or do they genuinely not have the same doubts as fathers from other regions in the country?
Interestingly, the numbers of fathers with questions of paternity varied between age groups. The age group with the highest number was 25-34 years old where 15% had doubts compared to 5% of fathers who were aged 55 or over. For some, younger people are perceived as being more promiscuous than older people so perhaps this research confirms that view. Or perhaps it just shows that fathers in that age group are more suspicious than older fathers.
Interestingly, and perhaps as would fit with expectations, those fathers who have separated or divorced from the mother of their children were twice as likely to have experienced paternity doubts as the average British father - 18% of that group had doubts.
What did the research say about mother’s views?
Fathers weren’t the only ones having doubts about paternity, mothers were found to have doubts too, although the figures amongst mothers were much lower. For example, 3% of mothers in the country were found to have doubts and the percentages of doubting mothers varied across the different regions in the country as they did in relation to fathers. The figures were reported to be at their lowest in Scotland where no mothers revealed doubts, and were highest in Manchester where 6% of women had doubts.
Similar to fathers, younger mothers were more likely to be doubtful; the age group with the most doubts was 18-24 years and in that group, 15% had doubts. The age group with the lowest number of doubters was again the age 55 and over category, and just 1% of mothers in this group had experienced doubts over the paternity of their children.
Interestingly, mothers who had never married were those most likely to have doubts about the paternity of their children, the figure being approximately 8%. Again, some may take the view that this seems logical as these women who do not owe a certain level of commitment to their partner may be more likely to have relations with different men than a woman who is married or in a serious relationship.
Whilst I would have expected a small number of parents to have doubts about the paternity of their children, these statistics are much higher than I would have expected. It may not be surprising that more younger parents revealed paternity doubts than their older counterparts but the regional differences between the sexes are more surprising. To illustrate, 0% fathers in Yorkshire and the Humber had paternity doubts yet 4% of mothers in the region did experience such doubts. Similarly, 0% of Scottish mothers revealed doubts about the paternity of their children yet 5% of Scottish fathers did. It would make sense that mothers and fathers have the same paternity doubts but the results of this research suggest that this is not the case which is rather peculiar.
I imagine it is extremely difficult for parents who are in this situation, not just in terms of their personal feelings but also in trying to ensure that their children do not suffer as a result of their doubts and feelings. Whilst a DNA test may easily and quickly be able to resolve doubts one way or another, I expect that for some parents, doubts coupled with the chance that the children are biological children of the man who they call dad is the least hurtful option when compared to the alternative.
If you would like any advice in relation to children matters, or indeed any other aspects of family law, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0113 336 3323
Disclaimer: Anything posted on this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information. Please contact the author of the blog if you would like to discuss the issues raised.