DNA tests, especially the ones done to establish paternity, are impacting families in a traumatic way in Liberia, and perhaps the rest of the world. These tests are performed for many reasons. The primary and most current reason in Liberia, is for immigration purposes; especially, immigration to western countries through a family member. Other reasons include an alleged father being told many years later that a past relationship resulted in the birth of a child; men who suspect their wives or girlfriends of infidelity and need to be certain that their child/ren are or are not biologically theirs; in child support cases, and so on. The impact of a negative result from a DNA (paternity) test can be an embarrassment for the mother, redemption (from financial obligation and peace of mind) for the alleged father, and sadly, a lifetime trauma for the child(ren) involved.
Before I go further, permit me to provide a basic understanding of DNA and the DNA test. DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic acid, and is defined by Oxford Dictionaries online as “a self-replicating material which is present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information.”
DNA testing can be used in parental testing, which on the other hand uses genetic fingerprinting to determine whether two individuals have a biological parent–child relationship. Here, a paternity test establishes genetic proof whether a man is the biological father of an individual, and a maternity test establishes whether a woman is the biological mother of an individual.
DNA testing is currently the most advanced and accurate technology to determine parentage. In a DNA parentage test, the result (called the probability of parentage) is 0% when the alleged parent is NOT BIOLOGICALLY related to the child and the probability of parentage is typically 99.99% when the alleged parent IS BIOLOGICALLY related to the child.
The process seems simple and innocuous but DNA tests are capable of unleashing untold woes upon those curious enough to accept the results. Many of the companies performing paternity (DNA) testing use simple buccal swabs because DNA is found in all cells in the body. The process begins like this: the buccal swab is rubbed inside of the cheek of the parent’s/parents’ and the child’s mouth. Then they (swabs) are placed in the container provided and subsequently returned to the laboratory. This completes the sample collection phase.
The testing process actually begins when all the specimens reach the laboratory. The most ubiquitous technology used (there are several others) is the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Subsequently, a formal paternity (DNA) test report which contains information on the probability of paternity is submitted. The report falls into one of two categories:
Inclusion: A probability value of at least 99.99% (means child and alleged father were all tested) means that the tested man is the biological father.
Exclusion: A probability value of 0% means that the tested man is not the biological father.
“The probability of paternity never reaches 100% because a paternity test is calculated against a population database. A 100% probability is only possible if every man in the world is tested. A probability value of 99.99% or higher eliminates most other men from being the biological father, virtually proving the paternity relationship between the child and the tested man.”
Over the years, families have been broken with children being the primary victims because mothers either lied or could not determine the biological fathers their child/ren. This has been a rampant issue in Liberia for many years, and many women prior to DNA testing have gotten away with this kind of scam.
A lot of men have been tricked into providing years of financial support worth thousands of dollars to unfaithful ex-wives, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, and so on for child(ren) that are not theirs. This is due to the fact that Liberia in the past– perhaps currently– did not have proper paternity testing mechanisms to establish parent-child biological relationships. Moreover, the primitive and inefficient methods used in the past were said to be tampered with in favor of a party in a paternity dispute; usually a lying mother.
Negative results from a DNA test can be overwhelmingly shocking for individuals. It exposes a moral fraud perpetrated by a woman who knows, or has reasonable grounds to know the true biological father of her child, but falsely identifies the wrong man as the biological father for reasons known only to her. There are three primary victims in these kinds of cases: the child, the alleged father, the mother and the child.
While the mother faces the embarrassment, the alleged father who may have developed a relationship with the child becomes hurt and has to live with that fact. A lot of men who go through this experience are initially discombobulated and unprepared for the intense grief that follows. On the other hand, for some men who had sought the testing themselves, a negative result is redemption from financial responsibility for the child. While they often feel a deep loss about a possible and final separation from the child, they do feel a sense of relief, especially where they are/were required to pay child support by the court.
I have often wondered about the possibility of a woman not knowing the person for whom she got pregnant. Is it possible? I strongly believe that the only way this happens is when a woman who is not in a monogamous (one man) relationship, and has sex with more than one man around ovulation time. Obviously, one of the two or three men that a woman sleeps with during this time will get her pregnant. It takes only one sperm cell to fertilize a female’s egg cell. If she does have several sex partners, or has several one night stands, during that week, there is no way of her knowing which sperm got to her egg first. In this case, no amount of math or period calculators will be able to tell you who the father is; only a genetic test.
The child has a right to have a relationship with his/her biological father and mother as provided for in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Hence, while it may hurt a child to know that the father she had known all your life is NOT her biological father, introducing the child to her rightful father should not be neglected. The option of whether to embrace this biological father or not should be left to the child. Although, the latter may not be fair to the biological father if he had no role to play in the paternity misunderstanding.
A DNA test can be done to provide clear answers to common allegations and avoid hours of costly legal argument and delay. It also brings about the immorality of a politically driven gender war because women have always been known to assert that men are unfaithful. A negative DNA result in my opinion is a scientific way of exposing infidelity within society. According to an article I recently read on the Internet, “One child in ten is not the child of the man assumed to be their father.” This kind of information makes you think, doesn’t it?
Until next week, carpe diem!