Here’s a little story. You get up one day and turn on the breakfast time radio news programme. A big story is breaking. Maternity wards have been mixing up the babies and sending women home with the wrong child! Moreover this has been happening at every maternity ward in the country since records began. Estimates have shown that at least 10% of all children have been brought up by the wrong mother – and possibly as many as 30%!
Can you imagine if this actually happened? There would be a sociological thermonuclear explosion. It’s just off the scale in terms of public reaction and horror. Women would be freaking out and having breakdowns right, left and centre.
But it doesn’t stop there. It has been discovered that these baby mix-ups have not happened by accident. It’s been done deliberately. The people responsible have been identified. And there are laws under which these despicable acts can be prosecuted. But guess what – the authorities have decided not to prosecute.
What? You’re kidding, right? Life imprisonment for these bastards, surely?
Too far fetched? Then grasp this. The above scenario is essentially true – right here and now in the good old UK. But it’s not women who have been given the wrong babies – it’s men.
Phew! So, that’s OK, then.
And it really is OK in the opinion of a writer on the Marilyn Stowe blog, who is of the view that it doesn’t matter if a man is conned into believing another man’s child is his, see here. Well, that’s fine and dandy if you happen to be a woman. As a woman, it is not a problem you would ever have.
Other women might, like Melanie McDonagh, bemoan the advent of the DNA test. She writes, “At a stroke, the one thing that women had going for them has been taken away, the one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers.”
There you have all the motivation you need for a men’s rights movement. Conning a man into spending his life raising another man’s child is just “a laugh”.
She continues, “DNA tests are an anti-feminist appliance of science, a change in the balance of power between the sexes.” Indeed they could be – if men were actually allowed to have a DNA test (see Part 2 of this blog).
It is extremely common for women to tell a man (husband or otherwise) that a child is his, when in fact it is not. This is paternity fraud. If deliberate, and it most often is, it is a crime. DNA testing can, and frequently does, establish that the mother has lied. How often are women prosecuted for this crime? Extremely rarely. I know of one UK case.
How common is paternity fraud? Firm data are hard to obtain for the simple reason that very few children are DNA tested. Data discussed below imply that only ~1% of cases which come before the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) involve DNA testing, and hence far fewer than 1% for the population as a whole. The best available information on the frequency of paternity fraud is summarised below.
From the Child Support Agency (CSA, now the CMS)
Of all DNA tests ordered by the CSA in four consecutive years the following percentages revealed the man whom the woman claimed to be father in fact was not the father: 10.6% (2004/5), 16.4% (2005/6), 13.6% (2006/7) and 19% (2007/8). This data is not normally published but was obtained via a Freedom of Information request and reported in The Guardian in August 2008.
What is not clear is whether these figures are representative of the UK population as a whole. On the one hand they were obtained from cases where paternity was probably being disputed. On the other hand, under CSA rules (to be explored further in Part 2 of this blog) a DNA test to establish paternity cannot be carried out unless the mother consents. So it might equally be argued that the rate of paternity fraud in the 99% of cases not tested (perhaps because the mother refused) would be greater still. We do not currently know.
Bellis et al (2005)
A multi-nation study by Bellis et al, Ref. indicates average rates of paternity fraud across the data collected of ~28%, though these data relate to cases where paternity had been disputed prior to testing and hence might be expected to be higher than in the public as a whole. Also UK rates appeared to be lower than in most other countries. The same paper using data from tests where there had been no such dispute implied average paternal discrepancies of about 4% to 7%. However, these tests allowed opt-out from people who might have been concerned about the outcome and so these estimates may err on the low side.
American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), 2002
In 2001 out of 310,490 cases tested by the AABB some 90,227 were “reported as exclusions”, i.e., the man was not the father in 29% of these cases. However, there is no guarantee that this figure is representative of the population at large, even in the USA. The sample size is impressively large, though.
Mommy’s little secret (Canada, 2002)
This is not a scientific study, but it suggests that the oft-repeated figure of very roughly 10% is in the right ball park.
Dr Denise Syndercombe-Court
In this video Senior Scientist Dr Denise Syndercombe-Court at Barts & London School of Medicine quoted negative paternity tests at the rate of 10%-12%. These are tests ordered by the CSA, so this estimate is superseded by those given above (i.e., 10% – 19%).
From all the above evidence I estimate that UK rates of paternity fraud are likely to be at least 10%, and perhaps the most recently revealed CSA figure of 19% may be the best estimate. Rates are believed to be far lower in higher socioeconomic groups, but correspondingly higher, perhaps ~30%, in the lowest socioeconomic groups. This suggests that roughly a couple of million children in the UK have been misled as to who is their father (and vice versa).
Shhh…don’t talk about it!
The feminist lobby, and perhaps women generally, are keen that the issue of paternity fraud is kept under wraps. A fine example is the article in the Guardian on 1/8/2008. The article itself was a good one. It included the CSA DNA test data. It also made the following observations,
Since DNA paternity testing figures began to be collected in 1998-99, 4,854 paternity claims have turned out to be false after DNA testing. Under child support legislation it is a criminal offence to make a false statement or representation, and to provide false documents or information. However, according to the CSA, there has not been a single prosecution of a woman for making a false claim.
The CSA does not have figures for whether any women have named the wrong father on more than one occasion. They also appear to have no information as to why women named the wrong father. CSA rules state that if the DNA test establishes that the named father is the actual father, then he must pay for the cost of the test. If the DNA establishes he is not the father then the taxpayer pays, so there is no consequence for the mother in making a false claim. The government has spent £9.37m on paternity tests since 1998 (i.e., in ten years).
The only thing egregious about the article was its title, namely “DNA testing: One in 500 fathers wrongly identified by mothers in CSA claims“. Alert readers must have been most confused because the first sentence of the article actually read, “Nearly one in five paternity claims handled by the CSA end up showing the mother has deliberately or inadvertently misidentified the father.” This sentence flatly contradicts the title of the article!
The article was subject to amendments on 13/8/08 and again on 10/9/08, though the grossly misleading title remained. I think we can read between the lines here as regards the struggle going on between the (honest) author and the feminist copy editor determined to deflect attention from the message of the report with a completely misleading title.
The headline 1-in-500 figure is completely meaningless. It is merely the number of men who were proved to have been falsely identified as the fathers, based on DNA testing, as a proportion of all the cases processed by the CSA. Since DNA testing is carried out only on a tiny fraction of all CSA cases, this ratio is bound to be small – even if every DNA test carried out were negative! The actual data, for year 2007/8, were 3,474 DNA tests carried out of which 661 were negative, i.e., the putative father was not the father in 19% of the cases tested. If 661 is 1-in-500 of CSA cases one can conclude that the CSA handled 500 x 661 = 330,500 cases in 2007/8. We can further conclude, therefore, that the CSA approved DNA tests for only 3,474 in 330,500, or 1.1% of cases. This is perhaps just as interesting a fact as the very high level of paternity fraud: extremely few men are allowed to know whether they are or are not the father.
The worst aspect of paternity fraud is that many women just do not recognise how wrong it is. This provides perhaps the most emphatic example of a common female mindset that men just don’t matter. A common perspective of women (the sinful 10%) is that it is perfectly reasonable for them to “choose” the father – after the event. That is, to choose who they wish to name as the father quite independently of the true biological father. Their objective, of course, is to optimise their financial position. Most women (in fact ~90%) are not so callous, of course. But in such a woman’s view, fatherhood is not decided by whose sperm was involved. Rather fatherhood is conferred by them, the mother, based on which man of their acquaintance has the best job.
How Serious is Paternity Fraud?
Paternity fraud is unique. It is simultaneously one of the most heinous of crimes, and yet is almost never punished despite also being far and away the most common of all crimes.
The effects of paternity fraud are threefold. Firstly, the child has a right to know its true father. There is a great deal of “the best interests of the child” in the literature about paternity identification, but as usual this is conflated with the best interests of the mother.
The falsely identified father faces two distinct hardships, both extremely onerous: financial and emotional. Even considered only as financial fraud it must rank as easily the most serious to which any ordinary person is subject. If you have your wallet stolen and someone empties all your bank accounts, takes all your savings and maxes out your credit cards, that’s a major blow. But that is insignificant compared with paying for the maintenance of a child (and perhaps a wife) for 18 years. And then there is the emotional destruction of finding that ‘your’ son or daughter isn’t! Perhaps after 18 years faithful devotion.
In my blog on the Corston Report you may recall that the good Baroness claimed that men cannot comprehend how awful prison is for women. But many women appear to have a comprehension problem as regards the appallingly destructive nature of paternity fraud. Paternity crime is inflicted callously with no remorse and no recognition by the perpetrator that the matter is particularly serious.
References (other than those linked directly above)
- Mark A Bellis, Karen Hughes, Sara Hughes and John R Ashton, “Measuring paternal discrepancy and its public health consequences”, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59 (2005) 749-754.