The American Association of Blood Banks reports that laboratories perform over 300,000 paternity tests annually. This equates to laboratories receiving over 900,000 samples every year. The simplicity and relatively low cost of undergoing the tests account for the ever-increasing numbers of DNA tests performed.
Reasons for Paternity Testing
One of the most common reasons that individuals undergo a paternity test is to show proof of the identity for a biological father. Occasionally, a former female partner can confront a man claiming that he fathered the child through a brief intimate relationship. Men may suspect their female significant other of adultery and request a DNA paternity test in an attempt at determining the true heritage of a child. Similarly, grandparents may suspect promiscuity occurred and desire to verify their relationship to a child. Following the death of a parent, young adults may discover that the parent may not have had a biological tie and desire to learn their identity.
DNA Sample Collection Process
Anyone in need of DNA testing can order one to three test kits from a certified laboratory. Samples required for acquiring genetic material entails swabbing the inside of the cheek with a device that appears similar to a large cotton swab. Individuals then insert swabs into each individual container with the necessary information and send the kit back to the lab.
Depending on the facility, laboratories complete tests within one to six weeks. Individuals typically receive the test results by mail. If a court determination depends on the results of the test, they must purchase legally binding tests which require notarized signatures of the people chosen to serve as the witness or witnesses during the swabbing process.
Distinguishing between Two Possible Fathers
Samples obtained from the mother, child and more than one man provide more than enough genetic information for proving the paternity of either man with 99.99 percent accuracy. When a test on two related men is required, test results may exhibit lower numbers compared to tests of two unrelated men. If the men are twins, there is no possibility of accurately identifying the father.
The DNA Testing Process
Each child receives 23 chromosomes from their mother and 23 chromosomes from their father. Each cell contains a combination of these chromosomes for a total of 23 chromosomes. DNA tests analyze the chromosomes of the mother, the chromosomes of the father and compare these sequences with samples obtained from the child.
The accuracy of the testing process varies between laboratories. Some only identify DNA using five chromosomal markers while others use 16. The more markers identified and used for comparison increases the accuracy of identification. Each parent contributes these 16 markers to the child. The DNA of the parent in question must have all 16 markers. Technicians then compare these markers with a large database for any other possible matches. Using the general population as a guide, the results indicate the probability that a particular man contributed the DNA found in the child.
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