Require Baby Paternity Test

The most extensive and authoritative report … concluded that 2 percent of men with “high paternity confidence” — married men who had every reason to believe they were their children’s father — were, in fact, not biological parents. Several studies indicate that the rate appears to be far higher among unmarried fathers. …

At a federally convened symposium on the increase in paternity questions, a roomful of child-welfare researchers, legal experts, academics and government administrators agreed that much pain could be avoided if paternity was accurately established in a baby’s first days. Several suggested that DNA paternity tests should be routine at birth, or at least before every paternity acknowledgment is signed and every default order entered.  …

The same care that hospitals take ensuring that the right mother is connected to the right newborn — footprints, matching ID bands, guarded nurseries, surveillance cameras — should be taken to verify that the right man is deemed father.

More here, and HT to Roissy, who supports mandatory paternity testing at birth, as do I. After all:

Most states … have their own mandatory newborn screening programs … Almost all states now screen for more than 30 disorders.

Most of those disorders are much rarer than 2%, and we have a far stronger reason to expect market failure for paternity testing than for the other required tests.  Men are clearly reluctant to request a paternity test at birth because doing so sends a bad signal:

Most of the [paternity acknowledgment] forms do note that genetic testing is available.  Advocates on both sides of the issue, however, say nearly all men sign the form without undergoing testing.  Sometimes they believe they are the father; sometimes they don’t understand what they’re signing; sometimes they hesitate to question a girlfriend’s fidelity right after she’s given birth; and sometimes they sign knowing full well the child isn’t theirs.

So what are best arguments on the other side?

It is, Smith says … a double standard that allows mothers and caseworkers to use DNA to prove paternity but prohibits men from using that same evidence to escape its obligations. But child-welfare experts counter that a child shouldn’t be punished by losing the only father she has ever known — or the financial security he offers — just because he’s upset that she doesn’t share his genes. … Child-welfare advocates say that making biology the sole determinant of paternity in cases like Smith’s puts the nonbiological father’s interest above the child’s. … ‘Is it my kid?’ is irrationally important to the cuckolded husband,” says Carol McCarthy … of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. … Why is it that we imbue genetic relationships with a potency that borders on magic?

My wife added that mandatory baby paternity testing seems to unfairly punish moms who “accidentally” misled men about paternity, and it would legitimize harmful suspicious attitudes of men during pregnancy.

I find these contrary arguments to be extremely weak.  If we worry about the kid’s financial security, why don’t we tax everyone instead of just this one man?  What basis could we have for calling this man’s reluctance “irrational,” if the rest of us are equally unwilling to pay for this kid?

Biologically, cuckoldry is a bigger reproductive harm than rape, so we should expect a similar intensity of inherited emotions about it.  If 2+% of women were raped and we had a reliable cheap way to identify the guilty party, don’t you think we’d require that?

Added 14Dec: More rate data:

More than 10% of births in the U.S. are to women with more than one concurrent heterosexual partner. … 20% of births are to women who have had more than one sexual partner in the previous year. … Over-all men falsely believe to be their own biological children about 4% of children.

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  • Chandra

    You’re a sexist pig.

    • Deryan Karoniv

      Please elaborate. We like logical arguments here; if you can give us good reason to believe Hanson is, in fact, a sexist pig, we wouldn’t be against it. Otherwise, I imagine this thread will soon disappear.

    • 2999

      Sadly, we may never know for certain if this comment was intended as satire or not.

      • waitingforgodel

        It’s times like these that I wish OB supported upvotes

  • http://mengbomin.wordpress.com/ Meng Bomin

    Chandra: That’s not an argument.

    As for me, I agree with the proposition of mandatory paternity testing. If we want a sound consistent way of determining legal paternal obligations, we should know who the father of a child is. Does this tip the balance of power toward men? Yes, but only because the current balance of power is currently unfairly biased against them.

    Of course, if mandatory paternity testing were to become the norm, it would be helpful to make sure that laws still worked in cases of adoption and if a man were to find out that a child wasn’t his but nonetheless wished to hold the obligations, there would be a need for adoption.

    I think that the fact that a man can be obligated to pay child support after learning that a child is not his is a major failing of our legal system at this point and legislation calling for mandatory paternity testing would serve to remedy this problem.

  • Kellen

    Great post Robin.

  • Challenge

    Mothers use paternity testing as evidence in court to win child support.

    Fathers should be able to use paternity testing as evidence to deny child support.

    This is a basic gender equality issue. As long as it remains unfair, there is a disincentive for men to marry (and a seeming incentive for one man to aid in cuckolding another), with a loss to both men and women.

    • Eric Yu

      I can see why there would be a net loss, but why do you think the status quo harms women (on net)? You would need to know whether women prefer the additional child support to the decreased marriage rate. If they do, making the law fair will result in a net loss for women.

  • Joseph

    I don’t see how this in any way can be construed as sexist. It’s just a simple equality issue. If biology is good enough to determine who has to pay child support, it ought to be good enough to determine who doesn’t.

  • Nick Tarleton

    Biologically, cuckoldry is a bigger reproductive harm than rape, so we should expect a similar intensity of inherited emotions about it.

    Why the a priori reasoning about such an easily testable question?

    • Tyrrell McAllister

      It would be good to see the a priori reasoning spelled out, too. I suppose the thinking is that a cuckold doesn’t control any of the genes of a child he must rear, whereas a woman impregnated by a rapist loses control over only half the genes.

      But this reasoning seems very over-simplified. Precisely because the cuckold shares fewer of his genes with the child, we should expect that it’s emotionally easier for him to abandon it. The rape victim has a harder choice to make. She shares more genes with the child, so we should expect that she feels more compelled to care for it, though she didn’t choose to have it. Might not natural selection have instilled a strong aversion to being put in this bind?

      And since the woman is less likely to abandon a child resulting from rape, her husband incurs a cost that might encourage him to stop supporting her. This means that the rape could lead to ostracism for the woman. It’s hard to see how cuckoldry could lead to ostracism for the cuckold. Ostracism would be a severe penalty for a woman in the EEV. The risk of it would likely induce a still stronger sense of aversion to rape.

      • Tyrrell McAllister

        Sorry, EEV should be EEA, or environment of evolutionary adaptation.

      • Will Pearson

        I thought it through something like this. A cuckold does not necessarily know he is raising someone else’s kid/kids so puts all his energy into raising them leaving no offspring with his genes.

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        The fear isn’t that a woman had a baby by some other man – yes if one quickly discovered that much less is lost. The big loss fear is of years spent raising such a baby.

      • japp

        …such a baby.

        I don`t get it. That “baby” will still call you dad and you will be his/her dad. In this whole mess, there is a child involved, alright?

        I am one of those “babies”. I found out about it when I was 16. Took me 5 years to have the courage to do the test (I was free to choose whether I would like to find out or not). Believe me, this was not an easy decision. But the consequences were not like had imagined them to be. Knowledge changes things, but not everything. My father is not my biological father. Do I care? No. Does he care? No. I am his son, he is my father.

        Some men are really afraid of raising such a baby. I am not sure, if they are a good parent because children are not only containers for spreading one`s egoistic genes. At least not in real life.

      • magfrump

        japp: they’re talking about evolutionary incentives, not psychological ones. A “past caveman” who spends years raising a child with none of his genes instead of making lots of new ones doesn’t pass his genes along; so cavemen who tended to do that died out.

        This overall is supposed to form an explanation of why people might feel strongly without a rational explanation, not to justify people’s behavior.

      • Tyrrell McAllister

        The big loss fear is of years spent raising such a baby.

        The rape victim and the cuckold both risk that. And, indeed, that *particular* cost is greater for the cuckold. But the rape victim also risks ostracism, while the cuckold does not. Indeed, displaying extreme trauma from the rape may be one of the few ways that the woman can persuade her husband not to ostracize her. And of course the easiest way to make this display convincing is to make it genuine. (All of this is presumed to happen in the EEA.)

        Yes, the cuckold has “wasted” more energy on a child that is not his. But the argument translating this into an equal or greater feeling of trauma when he learns that he’s been cuckolded is weak. He might try as hard or harder to *avoid being cuckolded*, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll feel as traumatized when his efforts fail. By analogy, compare the powerful urge to orgasm with the muted and very temporary sense of well-being that follows the orgasm. An extreme urge or aversion to an event doesn’t necessarily translate into an extreme emotional reaction when the event actually happens. It’s unclear that feeling traumatized has the same future “payoff” for the cuckold that it has for the rape victim.

      • M

        magfrump said,

        “A “past caveman” who spends years raising a child with none of his genes instead of making lots of new ones doesn’t pass his genes along; so cavemen who tended to do that died out.”

        You are overestimating the lost opportunity costs of raising a non-biological child. Your implicit assumption is that this one non-biological child is somehow displacing the busload of biological you/he would have had if it wasn’t for this “bastard.” How would
        things be any different if the child were biological? By your logic, any child he has will prevent him from making lots of new ones. The wild oats are always greener on the other side. I suspect that women are less prone to this cognitive bias.

    • http://permut.wordpress.com/ Michael Bishop

      I don’t think its that easily testable, but I encourage attempts.

  • Bud

    I read an article about this years ago. I had heard estimates around 4-5%, and now this blog post mentions 2%. I favor legally mandatory paternity testing at birth, with both biological father and mother to be listed on birth certificates. One of the reasons I favor this is that it is a deterrent against infidelity. Women who know with certainty that their spouse is legally required to be paternity tested when their child is born might make different choices. I also think it gives children information that they should have a right to know. It gives the father or cuckold the information upfront rather than later, and he won’t have to pay a price for demanding the test, because it was the government that required it. The main people who benefit from not having the paternity testing are dishonest and unfaithful women, and men who would like to avoid responsibility for their biological offspring. Why should the laws go out of their way to accommodate and help those people, at the cost of others?

    • March Hare

      …it is a deterrent against infidelity.

      And an incentive for abortion. If the woman is unsure the child is going to be her partner’s then she will abort rather than risk losing him, especially just after the birth when she is at her most vulnerable emotionally and financially.

  • rob

    I don’t know if you are a sexist pig or not, but Roissy is clearly mean-spirited in tone.

    An argument should be made that the benefits of this proposal would outweigh the costs. The way I see it:

    Potential benefits: possibly fewer cuckolds (although I don’t know why Roissy’s “alphas” should view this as a benefit)

    Potential costs: people exposed to horrible truths they can’t handle and would be better off not knowing. More suicides, murders, etc. Roissy gleefully posting pictures of the cuckolded losers on his website, continuing to decry most women as lying whores, promoting hatred for women in general… (Read the comments on his site.)

    Maybe this is a good idea, but aligning yourself with Roissy — particularly his sensationalist, mean-spirited post on the issue — is poor salesmanship of the idea. (Side note: why does the whole Roissian PUA community seem to be more about male bonding than male-female bonding? Ironically, the whole movement seems, um, kinda gay.)

    • Emile

      Potential costs: people exposed to horrible truths they can’t handle and would be better off not knowing.

      How do you know they would be better off not knowing? This site hasn’t exactly been promoting self-delusion and conforting lies.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Last time I mentioned Roissy I praised someone else who “has Roissy’s insight, but without the swagger.” I may not approve of all his values, but since I read about this on Roissy’s blog, he earned a hat tip,

      • Gary

        You should say that Roissy gave you the idea that cuckoldry is at least as damaging as rape too. That was a weak hat tip.

  • Psychohistorian

    The really interesting question is, why is it the father alone who signs the paternity form? The only person who can say for sure that he is the father (if anyone can), is the mother. It seems that failing to disclose that a child could belong to another man and then requiring a potential (or even not-potential) father to pay for the upbringing of that child is nothing short of fraud. It’s a willful misrepresentation that the man relies on to his detriment.

    It would make more sense to simply require the woman to affirm that the man is in fact the father. If she isn’t sure, but thinks he is, she should have to disclose that. If the kid is later found not to be his, he’s absolved of all responsibility, but (if he’s been a competent parent) relinquishes no rights.

    The problem with this solution is, of course, it assumes people are rational. It also creates weird incentives if people do lie. That said it may still be an improvement on the current system, and it would be cheaper and easier than mandatory paternity tests. Though, given the real world, making such tests mandatory may do a lot more good than harm. Or vice versa. These things get very complicated when the actors aren’t rational.

    Oh, and citing Roissy is probably a bad PR move. He has a very firm normative stance that is not particularly common among the general public.

    And the comparison of rape and cuckoldry is going too far, unless you can provide actual evidence showing similar outcomes among those who have suffered each. They’re comparable in an evolutionary sense, but not in any meaningful human way.

    I also find it interesting that you didn’t comment on the curious double standard this seems to hint at. It seems much more socially acceptable for women to deceive men than vice versa; current law on this issue is entirely non-retributive. There is no consequence (that I know of) for the woman, unless there’s a prenuptial agreement that specifies such.

    (Note to self: put something about this in your prenup. How could she object?)

    • 2999

      They aren’t comparable in the evolutionary sense. A raped woman (if she becomes pregnant, which is rare) still has a child that is 50% her genetic material. A cuckolded man has a child which is 0% his.

      And I imagine the psychological anguish, humiliation, and psychological pain are similar for a cuckolded man and a raped woman. Both are profoundly traumatizing and have long term impacts on the ability to fully trust the other sex again. But a raped woman has the universal support and outrage of society. The cuckolded man is often a laughingstock.

      And I’m sure Robin Hanson knows what is good PR and what isn’t. He just had a post saying, IIRC, that slavery isn’t a universal evil in all circumstances, so it seems he doesn’t care. (Or, alternately, is actively cultivating a radical contrarian image).

      • 2999

        I forgot to add, if you really still doubt that cuckolding is approximately as psychologically painful as rape, imagine discovering that your wife had actively deceived you about the paternity of your child for years.

        When I performed this introspection for being raped and cuckolded, I had to conclude that cuckolding would be worse. Rape is an acute trauma, but I think the emotional torment is about the same. Of course, this makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective.

      • Tyrrell McAllister

        But a raped woman has the universal support and outrage of society.

        Unless this was the case in the environment of evolutionary adaptation, it doesn’t necessarily figure into how traumatic the experience is.

      • John

        And as far as I know that was definitely not the case until fairly recently in most societies, which thoroughly condemned raped women.

        But if, as previously mentioned, raped women rarely become pregnant, doesn’t it become a little silly to look at the emotional repercussions of rape through an evolutionary lens? According to an evolutionary psych model, shouldn’t women be much less concerned about the prospect of being forcibly sodomized than vaginally raped? It seems like perhaps there are other factors at work here rather than simply the evolutionary aversion to spending time or energy raising or giving birth to a diluted genetic sample.

      • Tyrrell McAllister

        But if, as previously mentioned, raped women rarely become pregnant, doesn’t it become a little silly to look at the emotional repercussions of rape through an evolutionary lens?

        Strictly speaking, it’s not the odds of becoming pregnant that matter. What matters is the odds of becoming pregnant weighted by the cost. So long as this weighted value is significant, we should expect the possibility of pregnancy to shape in part the psychological reaction to rape.

      • John

        “Strictly speaking, it’s not the odds of becoming pregnant that matter. What matters is the odds of becoming pregnant weighted by the cost. So long as this weighted value is significant, we should expect the possibility of pregnancy to shape in part the psychological reaction to rape.”

        You’re right, I should have said as much, and I don’t doubt that some part of the reaction is due to those factors. Still, I’d predict that the vast majority of the psychological reaction to rape has little to do with the possibility of pregnancy. This is intuition, not empirical, but I would suspect that anally raped women are no less affected by the experience than vaginally raped women. That makes me doubt that the prospect of pregnancy is the driving factor here.

      • Psychohistorian

        Raped women don’t exactly have the full support and outrage of society. There’s still a great deal of shame associated with it.

        Moreover, there’s nothing that being cuckolded is like. That is, suppose your wife had someone else’s kid. You test his DNA to see if he’s yours, and by sheer staggering coincidence, the test is wrong and it says he is. Your experience is no different than if your wife had actually had your child. Alternatively, if you were the kind of person who did not really care about spreading your genetic material, you may very well not give a damn even if the test is accurate.

        Rape, on the other hand, is very much like something. There’s an experience to it. It has (though not in all cases) some significant, lasting psychological effects, and can cause sexual dysfunction throughout the rest of someone’s life.

        I do agree that they aren’t quite comparable in an evolutionary sense, since a raped woman can have an abortion, and the child is still biologically hers. But the experiences are sufficiently different that I think it’s inappropriate to compare them directly; one is almost completely abstract, the other is mostly concrete.

      • Bob Smith

        To the extent that your arguing that its “abstractness” diminishes the harm of cuckoldry, you are wrong. The death of a child doesn’t affect you directly either, but it’s still god damn awful.

        I would rather be raped 100 times in a shower by a prison gang than spend my entire life loving and devoting myself to a child only to find out that the child wasn’t mine. It would mean I’d thought I was passing on the most important part of myself, but really wasn’t. It’s the worst kind of theft imaginable. Cuckoldry isn’t as bad as rape, it’s worse.

      • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

        To Bob Smith:

        “The most important part of yourself”? Perhaps you are undervaluing the experience of having yourself as a parent.

        Have you read up on physical and emotional risks of having been raped? Sometimes just imagining how something (I assume) you haven’t experienced would feel isn’t enough.

    • Patri Friedman

      Screw PR, we’re trying to understand the world here! The two are in opposition, and you are making the wrong choice.

  • Newerspeak

    This issue is framed wrong.

    No one cares about cuckolded men, but everybody is interested in the prevention and punishment of wrongdoing. That’s why this post opens with that authoritative 2% figure — it grabs our attention and lets us know that something underhanded is going on.

    So the winning argument for mandatory paternity testing is to re-frame it (tacitly) as a screening for dysfunctional marriages:

    Adultery is usually the precursor to divorce. A woman raising another man’s child with her husband is not going to just reconcile with him out of the blue one day. At best he’s a dupe to her, or a mistake. If they stay together, there’s no guarantee the resulting environment will be healthy for the child. It could be absolutely poisonous. What happens if Mom and “Dad” have an argument and the dirty little secret slips out? What happens if she confesses to her son or daughter one day? If “Dad” is suspicious, how does that impact his parenting?

    And if the couple splits up, the “live and let live” attitude that kept everybody better off not knowing goes out the window. All children of divorced parents worry that they were the real reason their parents split. How devastating to find out it’s the literal truth?

    Much better to learn the truth early, when the child won’t be traumatized, the parents have the flexibility to take on their proper roles, and the real father (remember him?) is no more than 9 months away.

    • Psychohistorian

      This may be a better framing, but it is probably actively wrong. Given how many men get cuckolded (if the numbers are accurate), there are probably a meaningful number of perfectly stable marriages in which one or more of the children do not belong to the father.

      It seems that, because proving paternity is such a recent technological development, society does not find the act of deceiving a man as to the parentage of his child to be as contemptible of an act as perhaps it should. Since there was no way to really know (or, if there was, the man was himself aware of it), there was limited benefit to condemning guilty parties, since you couldn’t identify them.

  • Vince

    If we’re going to do this thing, we need to do the paternity test at conception, not at birth. It is impossibly harmful to both the mother and the child to take away the mother’s husband and the child’s father as soon as the hammer’s dropped and that baby’s crying and shitting and in need of support and love and care. If the baby is not his, the couple should have as much time as possible to come to grips with that.

    If that isn’t possible, than forget the whole idea. The health of the baby will trump gender equality every time. The arguments you have are even weaker. What would it mean to tax everyone instead of the one man? How could you even consider that an viable option? What are you suggesting, that the whole country pick up the tab?

    Raising a child doesn’t just involve monetary support. It takes love and affection from two parents. I’ve seen many kids raised only by their mothers, and they all beg for attention constantly, to the point of annoyance. Later on they have self-esteem and identity issues. You are asking for a whole generation of these brats, when the obvious choice is to just make whoever it is that’s in a relationship with the mother at the time of birth the father, and make him deal with the choice to keep the child and his self-respect, or run away from both with a paternity test. He stayed with her throughout the pregnancy, why in the world would or should he run away over a silly matter of genetics?

    Is it fair and equitable? No. Is it necessary for a healthy society? Absolutely. And that’s what matters.

    • http://yudkowsky.net/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

      You’re not addressing one of Hanson’s arguments here. Since you believe that the right of a child to have a father is more important than the right of a man not to unwillingly raise an unrelated child, why not force you to be the father of the child?

      • Vince

        Drafting fathers is not a realizable option, regardless of how well that would work for children. (it would probably be great) You can build houses out of logic all you want, that doesn’t mean the real world has to live in them. This site is called overcoming bias, not substitute-your-own-bias-here.

      • Peter Twieg

        Speaking of bias, why would you have to draft fathers? Why not just draft another mother? Or maybe two mothers, since surely that would be even more in the child’s interest.

        I’m sure any of these would be realizable options. In fact, it might be very feasible to purposefully identify individuals with plentiful and non-mobile assets to be assigned to children. Surely this would be an effective solution to the problem of deadbeat dads.

      • magfrump

        Why do you say “that would probably be great”?

      • Bill

        “Drafting” fathers is trivial. Once you know about the cuckoldry, it’s likely that adoption is in the child’s best interest. Since the adoption market is characterized by massive over-demand for children, especially newborns . . .

        Taking newborns away from “unfit” mothers for adoption was utterly normal, routine behavior throughout the West up until the 60s or so.

        It’s true (I assume) you couldn’t get a majority vote for this in any state house or in Congress, but so what?

      • Vince

        We cannot draft parents for unwanted children. To do that would be abhorrent to democracy. I would be all for it, it would solve a lot of problems, and if I were running my own dictatorship, I would institute such a policy.

        I support greatly loosening adoption rules, while also encouraging community resources to make raising a child more economical, such as community-run daycares and food co-ops. Increasing the number of hands children get passed around and sharing responsibilities will make it easier to detect cases of child abuse and facilitate sharing of best-practices child rearing.

      • Psychohistorian

        Vince – If drafting unrelated people to be fathers is abhorrent to Democracy, how is drafting an unrelated person who happens to be in a relationship with the mother not abhorrent? Moreover, wouldn’t it be a lot less abhorrent to draft the actually-related father instead? She really ought to know who he is. “The child needs a father” may be true, but it doesn’t necessarily entail that the person the mother’s dating when she gives birth is the best (or even a legitimate) solution to this problem.

        More generally, attaching the child to whomever is in a relationship with the woman at its birth, irrespective of paternity, gives a really, really strong incentive to break up before the child is born (not to mention the challenge of rigorously defining “in a relationship”). It also means almost no men would date a pregnant woman. If a man was seriously concerned about his paternity, he’d be encouraged to break it off and hope she found some other sucker. Obviously, not everyone would do this, but the marginal effect could be rather large.

    • Grant

      Another option might be for hospital policy to require paternity testing, as an incentive for men to recommend that hospital to their wives. They can even make up a semi-BS excuses for it: “We need to firmly establish a genetic link to the father in order to accurately understand the chance of genetic diseases”.

      • Grant

        Whoops, I put the reply above in the wrong spot…

        Vince, I think you’re mistaking part of the argument here, which is that mandatory paternity testing will reduce the number of cuckold babies in the long-term, increasing their welfare. We know from numerous studies that fathers do not treat children who are not genetically related to them as well as children who are, to say nothing of the father’s welfare.

      • Vince

        That doesn’t matter. The choice is between having a father (that may not raise the child as well as a biological father) and not having a father, not between having a non-biological father and having a biological father. A non-biological father should only be able to escape parental responsibility if a suitable biological or otherwise father is willing to take his place.

      • Allan Crossman

        (At this point I’m about 80% certain you’re a troll, since everything you’ve said in this thread is pretty absurd. When I reach 95% I’ll stop replying.)

        “A non-biological father should only be able to escape parental responsibility if a suitable biological or otherwise father is willing to take his place.”

        What exactly is the decision criteria for whether a man counts as a “non-biological father” who “should not be able to escape parental responsibility”?

        Is it a man who’s married to a pregnant woman? Or living with her? Or dating her? Do they have to currently be having sex? Do they have to have ever had sex? Does it matter if he (but not the real father, obviously) always used a condom? Why does it have to be a man and not a woman?

        You haven’t clearly outlined what you (claim to) believe.

      • magfrump

        Consider, in support of Allan’s point, the events of the TV show “Glee.”

        Mandatory paternity testing would probably rankle out some long term difficulties, even if it did cause short term drama.

    • Allan Crossman

      “What would it mean to tax everyone instead of the one man? How could you even consider that an viable option? What are you suggesting, that the whole country pick up the tab?”

      Yes, that would obviously be superior to getting one random uninvolved male to pay child support.

      “The health of the baby will trump gender equality every time.”

      Would you therefore outlaw paternity tests altogether?

      • Vince

        I disagree that wholesale welfare paid to single mothers would be better than forcing parental responsibility onto an already-involved male. I would not outlaw paternity tests. They are useful for medical purposes. I would only discourage fathers from using them as an escape from parental responsibility. We need men to step up and father children. Women cannot escape it, why should men be able to?

      • magfrump

        Women cannot escape it because maternity tests are somewhat more basic (where’d the baby come out of?).

        If paternity tests were routine, then biological fathers would be under far more pressure to be involved.

        I assume you don’t mean to posit that women have greater incentives to care for their children (other than possibly that they have declined to have an abortion.)

      • Psychohistorian

        Well, technically, once the embryo implants, ONLY women can escape it, as the woman has full legal rights over it until it’s at least into the third trimester. Given that our hypothetical “fathers” are genetically unrelated to their children, they’re the ones actually being captured. Of course, if the man knows it’s not his kid and agrees to take care of it, that’s an entirely different story. But we’re talking about women who deliberately mislead men into thinking it’s theirs. You also miss the fact that *knowing* your kid will be tested at birth will be a *really* strong incentive not to lie to your partner about whether he’s the father or not.

      • http://www.futurepundit.com Randall Parker

        Vince’s position, if maintained as policy, would drive more guys out of marrying in the first place. Better to have a few kids out of wedlock, get them paternity tested, and only if they are all yours agree to marry their mother. Otherwise as soon as you get married you are at legal risk of being forced to raise another man’s kids.

    • Janet Dell

      Vince, you state that supporting a child doesn’t involve just monetary support and in theory this is true BUT , we as a society have put a premium importance to it. In a number of areas fathers go to jail for not paying support but I have yet to hear of a mother going to jail for failure to allow a father to visit and nuture his child. We have government agencies in a lot of areas whos job it is to enforce monetary support but none (to my knowledge) to enforce visitation orders. So it seems that society and the government have put monetary support above other types of support in the hierarchy.

      You also state that men should be made to step up and father children , women can’t escape it, why should men be able to.

      Well, let me say this.

      Men have ZERO rights given by society to allow them to escape the burden of child rearing, it is not up to them but in fact up to the mother. Even if a man were raped and his sperm taken by force , he would still be held legally and financially responsible for the offspring, a mother on the other hand can choose abortion and unilateral adoption. Choices that men don’t have.

    • kurt9

      Is it fair and equitable? No. Is it necessary for a healthy society? Absolutely. And that’s what matters.

      I would accept this only with the following condition. Any woman guilty of what is called “paternity fraud” should be forcibly and permanently sterilized.

      • Terrier Hockey

        Or the woman should have to pay the man a child support fee to compensate him. It’s really no different than paying a day care service or a nanny.

  • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

    Re: “Most states … have their own mandatory newborn screening programs … Almost all states now screen for more than 30 disorders. Most of those disorders are much rarer than 2% [...]”

    Most of those disorders have the potential to harm the kid. A paternity test is also likely to harm the kid.

    Compulsory paternity testing might encourage female fidelity – but some helpless little babies would pay the price for it.

    • magfrump

      Or potentially could recover child support payments from the cuckolding male, resolve future strife, and prevent future damage to the parents.

      On the other hand I can see significant reasons to be risk-averse when dealing with a newborn.

    • anon

      Strictly speaking, a paternity test is not likely to harm the kd since even in cases where the test was specifically requested by a mistrustful father, 2/3 of the tests are going to come out positive (the father knows with certainty that the child is ‘his’). For each child who might be harmed, two kids are benefited. It’s a wash.

    • http://www.futurepundit.com Randall Parker

      A paternity test has the potential to identify the real father. If the law knew who the real father was for every kid then the real genetic father could be held liable to fund the child’s needs.

      A paternity test also has the potential to identify skanky women. I see that as beneficial to society. Put their pictures up on web sites.

  • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

    Re: “He stayed with her throughout the pregnancy, why in the world would or should he run away over a silly matter of genetics?”

    Many men don’t like their partners sleeping with other men. In fact, they can get kind-of uptight about it – for some strange reason – almost as though it is a bad sign, or something…

    • Vince

      You guys seem to be worried about the ho-hum middle-aged insecurity that your wife is sleeping around on you. If your wife is sleeping around, that’s a problem between you and your wife, don’t bring a helpless infant into the mix. It takes two to create the conditions that lead to infidelity. Watch American Beauty and reconnect with your family before she starts boinking the neighbor. If you’ve failed to do that, then you deserve to be cuckolded, and no way should that infant pay for your failings as a husband.

      You really should be worried about all the kids that aren’t conceived in what we adults term a “relationship.” My little nephew was very lucky that his daddy wanted him. Lots of them don’t. Social pressure is absolutely necessary to help these poor kids get the fathers they need. Making paternity testing at birth mandatory lower the number of these children with fathers.

      • Emile

        You guys seem to be worried about the ho-hum middle-aged insecurity that your wife is sleeping around on you. If your wife is sleeping around, that’s a problem between you and your wife, don’t bring a helpless infant into the mix. It takes two to create the conditions that lead to infidelity. Watch American Beauty and reconnect with your family before she starts boinking the neighbor. If you’ve failed to do that, then you deserve to be cuckolded, and no way should that infant pay for your failings as a husband.

        Infidelity is wrong. Saying that somebobody else is also responsible for the conditions that allowed it doesn’t make it less so. Would you accept the same kind of argument to minimize the gravity of rape, murder or robbery? I’m sure there are plenty of cases where one person murder their partner because the partner in question was a major pain in the ass – does that make it any less wrong?

      • Vince

        I would not accept the same kind of argument for rape, murder, and robbery. Infidelity is not wrong and adultery is not a crime.

      • magfrump

        Interesting status quo bias from Vince–adultery is not a crime implies that infidelity is not wrong?

        I was under the impression that it was difficult to enforce and draw lines since relationships outside of marriage don’t constitute legal agreements, and that inside of marriage infidelity is grounds for divorce–that is, is legally punishable in some manner (specifically, one which avoids extra harm when spouses reconcile).

      • Peter Twieg

        If you’ve failed to do that, then you deserve to be cuckolded

        Ridiculous. Or would you extend this story to situations about how women who fail to connect with their husbands deserve to be subjected to physical abuse or marital rape as well? If not, why not?

        and no way should that infant pay for your failings as a husband.

        This completely dodges the issue, which is to ask why the husband of the biological mother who’s not the biological father should be expected to have any special responsibility for the child. You can’t just say “because otherwise the child would be harmed”, because this would be the case under any scheme of assigning parental responsibilities, no matter how arbitrary.

      • Vince

        In cases of physical abuse and marital rape, the woman shares in the responsibility by not leaving an abusive relationship. As bad as single parenthood is to children, physically abusive relationships are worse, both to children and parents. In this case, the mother should leave the father and take the children with her.

        And I’m not dodging anything. If you stay with a woman throughout her pregnancy, then suddenly decide to leave her as soon as the baby comes out, you’re a despicable human being and deserve to be shamed.

      • Michael Sullivan

        The counterpoint of rape/physical abuse to infidelity going on here is rather startling.

        rape is a direct violent offense to one’s person. Infidelity is certainly wrong, but it’s not in the same category as offenses go. It is a broken promise, a default on an implicit or explicit contract.

        It is far more akin to a failure to pay child support than to rape or physical abuse.

        Is that really a distinction that should be trivialized?

        It’s right there in Robin’s post as well. Are we really supposed to believe that the primary problem with rape is the potential for a child and the evpsych implications of then raising a child without being able to choose the donor of the other 50% of genes? Where is that coming from? What evidence do you have that this is the primary social cost of a rape?

      • Peter Twieg

        Vince -

        It’s one thing to say someone shares the responsibility for someone else’s transgressions. It’s another thing entirely to affirmatively argue that they deserve whatever sorts of suffering.

        Michael -

        The relevant issue here isn’t whether rape and cheating are morally identical (obviously they aren’t), but whether their differences are relevant to the kinds of arguments under consideration. I don’t think they are, and thus juxtaposition is permissible.

      • Michael Sullivan

        You’re claiming that the differences are meaningless in this context. To me, that claim is absurd on it’s face and requires non-trivial evidence.

        We are supposing that women (and men) would of course be in favor of making automatic a test that would determine the guilty party in rapes, if one were available. I believe that is because of the nature of the crime, the violent assault on one’s person. I would also be in favor of an automatic test to determine the identity of armed robbers, as would most people.

        Adultery is not violent and is not a crime.

        I maintain that for the purposes under discussion that’s a huge difference. You seriously expect to claim that the difference is irrelevant to this comparison without evidence? Without any argument beyond the argument from the *gene’s* perspective?

        That’s implicitly arguing that pure genetic determinism is normative, a very bold moral claim that we should all bow to the blind idiot god.

      • Vladimir Slepnev

        “Making paternity testing at birth mandatory lowers the number of these children with fathers.”

        Looking at direct effects only is often misleading. Use game theory to get a more accurate account of what will happen: initially more cuckolded dads will run away, but as women en masse learn the new policy, they’ll become much more reluctant to cheat or otherwise conceive with men who won’t stay around to support the kid, bringing the frequency of this stuff close to 0%. Which would be a good thing all around, IMO.

        Running a paternity test at the woman’s first medical screening instead of at birth, as you suggested, is an even better idea. Not sure if it’s feasible with current medical technology.

      • http://www.thefaithheuristic.com Justin Martyr

        What is your position on single motherhood and divorce from low conflict marriages then Vince? Are you really that concerned that children have fathers?

      • Vince

        Single motherhood should be avoided, and social pressure used to ensure infants have two parents. Divorce should not be encouraged. I’ve changed my position over the years. It’s entirely too hard on the children. If you have a bad marriage, you should work on it.

  • Hans

    If you were to turn this issue around, would anyone argue that wives have to pay child support for their unfaithful husbands’ children by other women, after they are divorced? Then why do husbands currently have to pay for their unfaithful wives’ children?

    Where is the cuckoo in all this? If the paternity test at birth comes out negative for the husband, he should be absolved of all financial responsibilities. His (ex-)wife can then sue the real father of the child for child support. The child will grow up in a single parent family, true, but this would happen anyway if its (legal) parents divorced after the paternity test. Where the child support comes from (the real or the cuckolded father) is irrelevant. Biological parents (and only they) are financially responsible for their children, regardless of whom they are currently married to.

  • Julian Morrison

    This seems to be a conflict between two ways of defining where a child belongs. In one system, the child belongs with the biological parents. In the other, the child belongs with the family into which it is born, parentage notwithstanding. The latter explains “why make THIS man pay (versus taxing everyone)” – he’s one of the adults in this family.

    Seeing as even defining “parentage” is now or very soon will be complicated – like, what if the child’s DNA was spliced with various library genes (maybe not all human), or edited in software first, or hand-written in parts, or one of the “parents” was back-calculated by a supercomputer from a fictional personage – then it seems to me that putting too much weight on genetic heredity is just a bad idea.

    The best argument for non-involvement of the cuckolded man, IMO, is not parentage at all, but that he wasn’t consulted and didn’t consent.

    • Jeffrey Soreff

      The best argument for non-involvement of the cuckolded man, IMO, is not parentage at all, but that he wasn’t consulted and didn’t consent.

      Well said. This removes a large part of the “magical genes” element of the argument. It just happens that this is a case where a type of fraud is particularly easy to detect. This is presuming that the husband isn’t aware of and consenting to raising the unrelated child. If he is aware and consenting, then this is just a type of adoption.

      As an aside, considering how large a disadvantage raising an unrelated child would have been in the EEA ,it is remarkable that that our instincts evolved in such a way that (knowing) adoption of an unrelated child ever works…

      A similar type of fraud is “oopsing”, a case where the wife claims to be
      using contraception but isn’t. This is also a “wasn’t consulted
      and didn’t consent” case, but not one where there is an easy
      detection method, as there is here.

      (Personal disclosure: I’m childfree, so I, fortunately, have no direct stake in this)

      “Where is My Jetpack” comment: One of the frustrating things about routine paternity testing technology is that it was projected (e.g. In Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”), it is one that was actually developed, and yet we don’t use it to full effect :-(

  • Robert Koslover

    I respectfully disagree with Robin on this. There should be no law requiring paternity testing in ordinary cases of births where paternity is not being officially legally contested. My reasoning is simple and stems directly from basic American founding principles, i.e., freedom from tyranny. I am both somewhat surprised and saddened that so few of the people posting here seem to appreciate this aspect to the argument. Mandatory paternity testing would be yet another Government-imposed involuntary reduction of our freedoms to spend/enjoy our wealth/money as we choose, as free individuals, living in a free society. Our government should not require people to pay for services that they do not wish to purchase unless there is an overriding and solidly-demonstrated threat to the public health and safety from not doing so. I see no evidence of any such overriding threat. Leave paternity testing to the free market, where it, and very nearly all of our commerce, truly belong.

    • Julian Morrison

      Your argument can be reconciled with the market failure, Nudge style, by making testing the default and obliging the parents to explicitly opt out if they want to avoid it.

      • Anonymous

        I’m fine with that, as long as: () they can also opt out of paying for it; (2) the option to “opt-out” isn’t buried in tiny text that few if anyone is likely to read; (3) that insurance companies are not pressured or legally-required to cover it (thus making it difficult to purchase insurance that does not cover it, and thus driving up insurance rates, even if only slightly, for those who would not want that coverage, but would have no choice among policies that do not cover it.) For me, I am cynical enough to believe that the conditions above would not be met by any attempt to actually implement your policy. I do agree with you in principle, but would be surprised to find any bureaucracy with enough basic respect for individual rights/freedom to actually work to preserve the individual’s ability to both opt out of the procedure and to opt out of paying for it.

      • anon

        I think this is the right solution. Government-sanctioned (opt-out) paternity testing wold seem to protect couples from the harmful effects of signaling distrust, while still protecting fathers who might prefer not to know about their biological relatedness to the child.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      What’s to talk about here? Anyone remotely aware of the existence of axiomatic libertarians can already have predicted their position and argument and already know what they think of that. Seems another generic uninformative disclaimer we can do without. As in: “Disclaimer: since this position violates libertarian no-government axioms libertarians will object.”

      • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

        huzzah. The backlash against axiomatic libertarians is long overdue.

      • Robert Koslover

        By “another generic uninformative disclaimer” does that mean you put no weight on the libertarian argument at all? Arguing in support of freedom may be boring and predictable, but I’ll take it over the cleverest and even the most well-intentioned arguments for authoritarianism any day. From the perspective of one who embraces freedom, the burden of proof in regard to any freedom-reducing proposal should always fall upon those proposing it, not those who stand in opposition. If it is your position that government-enforced mandatory paternity testing would provide societal benefits that outweigh the undeniable loss, however small, of individual economic freedom that would result, then go ahead and make that argument. But don’t pretend that there is no such loss of freedom, or that it automatically doesn’t even matter.

      • http://williambswift.blogspot.com/ billswift

        I’m far more extreme a libertarian than most on the Web, or than anyone I have actually met in person, and I have no problem with this. Given all the required testing and shit done already, the marginal cost of adding one more test is enormously outweighed by the potential benefits from mandatory paternity testing. Get rid of all, or most, of the other tests and my position would change, but even real libertarians need to live in the real world. Most who claim to be libertarians are posers who just object to anything the gov’t does out of sheer, irrational spinal reflex.

      • http://www.superbad.com John Sabotta

        Anyone remotely aware of the existence of axiomatic libertarians can already have predicted their position and argument and already know what they think of that.

        …says the Bayesian superman. Well, I think that your response to being shoved head-first into a wood chipper would be equally “predictable” and boring and “axiomatic”, Hanson. But the tedious predictability of your generic uniformative complaints (screams, unimaginative and repetitive shrieking, etc.) still doesn’t give anyone the right t\o turn you into Hanson puree.

        Roissy +Hanson. The nerd will to power unleashed! (Make sure you wash your hands afterwards, though.)

  • Jim Vernon

    To all of you for the “cuckolding” comments: I’m sure you think you’re clever or witty. You’re not.

    I’m a non-biological father, but I’m no cuckold. I married into instant fatherhood of a 9 year old nearly twenty three years ago.

    I’ve spent years trying to educate people with insensitive reactions to single motherhood by reminding them that every child deserves equal respect, and disrespect for single mothers (who, let’s face it, you’ve never met and don’t understand, despite your forthcoming anecdote that establishes you as an expert) is damaging to their children.

    If you feel great about yourself because you were married before you first had sex, bully for you. Statistically, you’re a freak. If you’re in the mainstream of society who had sex before or outside of marriage but are trying to pretend that you were married before you first had sex, then you’re exactly the same “fraud” as one comment described the unfortunate mother who affirms paternity of a non-biological father. (Similarly, anyone who uses the “I” word — I know it’s not in the comment stream, but cuckolding is essentially the same insult — who was not a virgin at marriage is an equal fraud.)

    It is one thing to judge someone you know intimately — even then full of pitfalls. It is quite another to judge someone you’ve never met. Stop it.

    So, geniuses, let’s stick to the general issues and leave terms like cuckolding to Shakespeare, who might have been the last person to use it with relevance.

    As for rights, I wish I’d had some. I didn’t. I also didn’t bitch and moan about it. I got the job done.

    It’s bad enough that most of our society labels me a “step-father”, with all the second-class connotations of the term. If my daughter’s biological father hadn’t run the other way even before her birth, I could gladly accept the label. It doesn’t apply, because I didn’t “step in” for anyone. I stepped into a vacuum. Not once have I referred to my daughter as a stepchild. Yet, perfect strangers insist on labeling me and my daughter, even after I correct them. Label yourself, if you like.

    Clever labels don’t make your comments smart.

    • Vladimir Slepnev

      As for rights, I wish I’d had some. I didn’t. I also didn’t bitch and moan about it.

      I don’t like this way of looking at things.

    • Jeff

      Good for you, but get off your high horse. You WILLINGLY put yourself in that situation, which is worlds apart from being duped by someone you love into unknowingly providing for their bastard child.

      • anon

        You do have a point here; Most people would rather not provide for a bastard child, or any kind of bastard whatsoever.

        But this has nothing to do with biological relatedness; non-biological children can be as well behaved as anyone else. And most bastards are probably born to parents who are married to each other.

      • Jeff

        You make a good point. To clarify my stance, my issue is with the idea of being duped into taking care of a child that isn’t mine, not actually taking care of the child. It’s a matter of pride.

      • Rich Rostrom

        “most bastards are probably born to parents who are married to each other…”

        Not in America, I think. As of 2005 (last year reported in the Statistical Abstract), 37% of U.S births were to unmarried mothers. If more bastards were born to married mothers, that would mean that at least (37%/63% =) 59% of births to married mothers were bastards. That doesn’t seem plausible.

      • anon

        Hm… How do you figure that being born to a single mother makes someone a bastard? Sure, the lack of a father figure has got to have a negative effect on these kids’ character, but calling them bastards is quite a stretch.

      • bbleeker

        They’re using “bastard” not as a term of abuse here, but in the original sense, as a technical term meaning a child born to a woman who isn’t married to the biological father. A bastard may grow up to be a perfectly nice person. :-)

      • Jim Vernon

        I’ll stay on my high horse long enough to tell you not to call my daughter a bastard to my face. What part of rude don’t you get? My high horse is simply about manners.

    • anon

      … If you’re in the mainstream of society who had sex before or outside of marriage but are trying to pretend that you were married before you first had sex, then you’re exactly the same “fraud” as one comment described the unfortunate mother who affirms paternity of a non-biological father. …

      Non sequitur. Most people who have sex before or outside marriage use birth control methods in order to avoid unplanned pregnancy; in fact, the widespread apprehension about “cuckoldry” has as much to do with general dysfunction and lack of long-term planning as with anything else.

      Non-planned parenthood may literally be an “unfortunate” event, but sometimes one cannot count on being able to undo one’s choices. The universe has its own rules and does not care in the least about the righteousness of one’s motives; in the end, it all comes down to your actions. These are hard and perhaps merciless lessons, but they’re necessary and one who has not internalized them to heart cannot call themselves a fully competent and ethically mature person.

      Nevertheless, you do have a point; much of the discussion in this thread seems to imbue biological fatherhood with some sort of magical power, which is a pretty irrational reaction.

      • Jim Vernon

        No disagreement about birth control, but children are the product of intercourse, and too many people sanctify their own while denigrating others with words like “illegitimate” (the single ugliest term in this whole conversation if not in all of language), “cuckold” and “bastard”.

        Much of this discussion is simply rude. I’m not disputing the issue. I’m disputing disparagement.

      • Glycerine

        “Cuckold” is not a label given to children, but to unwitting fathers. Cuckoldry is as alive and well today as it ever has been. Women who deceive their partners in this way are disgusting human beings, and the man has a right no know. A child should never be branded as “illegitimate,” however, a man should not also be forced to accept the responsibility of the child either.

      • Jim Vernon

        The universe has its own rules and does not care in the least about the righteousness of one’s motives; in the end, it all comes down to your actions.

        Pretty close to my point. Everyone seems comfortable throwing around insults without knowing anything real about the people they’re insulting. Again, not disputing the issue, just manners.

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  • http://spivonomy.blogspot.com/ Sam Wilson

    Biologically, cuckoldry is a bigger reproductive harm than rape, so we should expect a similar intensity of inherited emotions about it.

    Perhaps this is true relative to the man being cuckolded, but for the other man, it’s an incredible reproductive advantage: it’s an extremely low-cost method of passing on one’s genes. In this regard, I’m surprised that the rates are as low as a mere 2%.

    Do you suppose the rates are so low because women have an advantage in maintaining the fidelity of the marriage monopoly signal? Is 2% acceptable noise?

    As for mandatory or automatic-by-default paternity tests, I think more knowledge leads to better-informed decisions. To be sure, the game equilibrium condition would require more honesty from expectant mothers. There’s a lot of planning that can be done in nine months.

    Also, awesome first comment. I just got about half the eyes in the Rathskeller on me for laughing so loud.

  • Philo

    Lots of men aren’t much concerned about passing on their genes to subsequent generations. For them, rearing a child biologically not their own is no harm. Robin writes: “Biologically, cuckoldry is a bigger reproductive harm than rape.” But it is an abuse of language to call something “biological reproductive harm” when it may not be “harm” at all.

    • asd

      “For them, rearing a child biologically not their own is no harm.”

      Only true if they’d been ok with raising another man’s child up front. Otherwise there are, at the very least, the financial costs to take into account.

      • Jim Vernon

        Only true if they’d been ok with raising another man’s child up front.

        Have you considered that it’s about rearing the child of the woman he loves, not about the other man?

      • Terrier Hockey

        Have you considered that maybe he would no longer love the woman if he found out she had been cheating and dishonest?

  • http://williambswift.blogspot.com/ billswift

    I like Roissy’s

    “Roissy Maxim #666: When a woman has incentive to lie, she will choose lying over honesty EVERY SINGLE TIME.

    Roissy Corollary to Maxim #666: Treat woman like Soviet Russia — Trust but verify.

    Except that should be people, not just women (though women do seem to be more consistently dishonest).

    • Tyrrell McAllister

      (though women do seem to be more consistently dishonest).

      What is your reason for thinking that?

      • http://williambswift.blogspot.com/ billswift

        Personal observation over decades – the small sample size is one of the reasons I used “seem to be”.

  • Eric Johnson

    Rob and Psychohistorian,
    The tone of Roissy is pretty histrionic and sometimes even mock-hysterical, as is typical for a provocateur. If you take him as overflowing with hate and bile, you misread. Its a little subtle because he barely even exaggerates himself — he merely forgoes ALL politesse, which gives the same effect in a different way. You too would seem like a raving extremist if you wrote your real feelings with zero euphemism or moderation.

    • Eric Johnson

      Also, though he hasnt said anything about it, he is very likely a former left-of-the-party leftie, born with full-on left diathesis, who fell hard for the paleo right not too long ago. His recalcitrant amoralism is the giveaway. And he fell not just for the right, but for the broader staunchly non-idealizing mode associated with the old right. There may be, or recently have been, a few times a week when his worldview felt almost like a graft rather than late modernity seeming like a hallucination. He is very accustomed to provoking himself, so he likes provoking you.

      • rob

        Eric, I read some more of his blog and I think I agree with you now. He seems to be channeling a character. Some of it is very funny, like his advice to stamp your passport with countries that the CIA has designated as sponsoring terrorism or those which have no diplomatic ties to the United States in order to play “Shady Character Game”. Now THAT shows commitment. I clearly misread his tone in the beginning.

      • rob

        I will add that some woman in Roissy’s life has seriously hurt that man. Probably in high school. (But men hurt more, no?)

  • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com richard silliker

    What I would like to know is; what is the state doing involving “itself” in this situation is the first place? It is none of anybody’s business who is zooming who. If there is a problem, take care of it yourself.

    Next thing after this interference by the state will be the requirement of having to have observers every time you screw and immediate testing for pregnancy.

    • Doug S.

      The state’s already involved, because legal parents are legally obligated to provide for their legally recognized children.

      • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com richard silliker

        Not to the extent that is being proposed. Seems to me that there is a way for the “parents” to solve this issue of paternity by themselves if they are interested.

        $79 For Complete DNA Paternity Test
        ISO17025 and AABB Accredited. Results in 3 days.
        http://www.paternitylabtest.com

  • jonathan

    I’m unsure how I feel about this.

    Paternity is only an issue now in divorce / separation and then in two specific contexts, money and visitation / parenting rights. These rights tend to go together but not always, so you do have sad cases where a non-biological father pays child support but has minimal or even no contact with the child he has raised and whom he supports. But public policy should not be made based on exceptions and worst cases – which is a problem we have all the time, especially in medicine.

    Someone will get hurt by any policy decision and we respond dramatically to how the question is phrased. The paternity issue has in recent decades been framed from the perspective of the child’s welfare. That generates one result. If it is phrased from the father / non-father’s perspective, you can get a different policy. If you look it from the perspective of the mother, you could end up discussing how paternity testing might be a disincentive for women to get pregnant outside of marriage – though their are many factors at work there. If anyone believes there is an objective perspective, one that’s invariant under transformation, then they slept through the last 100+ years.

    • Eric Johnson

      Thats well put, by my lights. Someone will indeed be hurt. But is it really so injurious, quantitatively, to grow up without payments from your nonbiologic father? Is anyone so poor in the West that their IQ will be lowered by malnutrition, or they wont reach their full tallness? I say no. The salient issue about having X wealth versus Y is whether you can afford college. But there are always loans and in-state schools.

      Meanwhile the cuckold has *already* been lied to, tricked, and injured, *before* the state makes him pay out mountains of dough. At least, hes been tricked in the average case: if one doesnt feel tricked then I guess one hasent been tricked, but probably most will feel tricked. In game theory terms, hes acted as a cooperator and been victimized by a defector against the legal and evolved-hardwired meaning of marriage, and the state actually provided an incentive for this to happen. It would be “merely questionable” if the state took from the commonwealth to provide this incentive while still endorsing marriage, but instead it takes from the victim.

      One cant soaring and effortlessly transcend perspective, but with much awkward effort you do get a few meters of altitude and a meager sort of bird’s eye view. Call it a sparrow’s eye view rather than an eagle’s. Anyway, the last 100 years was not all that great.

  • Cyan

    In the future we can mix genes of the child and even today there may be three people involved (ovum donor, sperm donor, and the person carrying out the pregnancy).

    It would make sense to get the laws ignore genetics so:
    + no child-support because of a child carries some of your genes
    + no rights to a child simply because your some of genes are mixed in
    + if the child has only one parent get the support from state
    + encourage people to do contracts about who the legal guardians are and what their obligations are before the birth

    • Eric Johnson

      I didnt even think of that. Cool point. But even though such contracts should certainly be allowed, you still need to either make contracts compulsory or have a default for the no-contract case.

      Why wouldnt you have a certain default specifically for heterosexual, old-fashioned progeny-making, which is a well-defined and modal way of doing it, as well as being the *implied* way that you are gonna do it if you consent to marriage. And why wouldnt that particular default involve genetic relatedness or the lack thereof, which is a natural, inherent source of strong feelings and salient behaviors?

      Or, to repeat, you *could* just have compulsory contracts — but why not ponder, now, what should be done if that compulsory contracts bill just doesnt become law.

    • Cyan

      I don’t know how many people care, but the Cyan who posted that comment is not the long time but infrequent commenter who also posts under that nick at Less Wrong, to wit, me.

      That said, it’s a good comment.

      • Cyan

        Sorry, didn’t mean to use your nick, hadn’t noticed you at LW.

        Will use something different in the future.

    • pdf23ds

      This is the best solution.

    • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com richard silliker

      To many abstractions of abstractions to work properly. Everyone except a few will get lost in the layers of meaning.

  • Zvi Mowshowitz

    My father used to work for a company that ran a DNA storage bank – you’d pay them to store the DNA so it would be around for medical purposes, and he found the rate in which the person who thought he was the father turned out not to be was about 15%. The service was far more expensive than a paternity test, so it’s doubtful it was being used as a proxy for one often enough to lower the overall rate to 2%.

  • Tyrrell McAllister

    I’m trying to think of a plausible way in which a woman could be “cuckolded”. Here’s a legal hypothetical. I’m curious to know the answer:

    Suppose that a hospital accidentally gives a new mother (call her “Alice”) the wrong baby. The hospital then lies to cover up its mistake. Alice raises the baby for some number of years, and then discovers somehow that the child isn’t biologically related to her. Is she legally obliged to continue to raise the child?

    To strengthen the analogy, suppose that the child’s biological parents intentionally arranged for Alice to be given the wrong baby. (Suppose also that Alice’s real child died, and so is no longer in the picture.) When Alice learns of this deception, can she just give the child back to the real parents and be absolved of all responsibility? Or does the child still have a claim on Alice in the eyes of the law?

    • Eric Johnson

      My personal view is that that is so rare that “who cares” if we act in a principled way. What I mean is that if you and I decide that such children ought to be state-supported, just because thats the easier, more confortable decision for us to make, who would bother showing up to argue with us, since the cost is trivial. Therefore it doesnt matter whether we can defend our decision as fair or right, unless we have some neurotic degree of philosophical scruple thats unlike the way people normally act in real life.

      In contrast, at 2+ percent, cuckoldry is relatively common, so we need to be fair and right rather than comfortable.

      • anon

        “My personal view is that that is so rare that “who cares” if we act in a principled way.”

        As the OP mentions, this is only “rare” because hospitals have adopted strict procedures in order to correctly match newly-born children to their mothers. The real question is why the same kind of scrutiny should not apply to accurately identifying fathers.

  • simpleton

    How are you getting around the medical ethics of drawing blood from (and invading the genetic privacy of) the child, for a test which is against the child’s interests?

    • Allan Crossman

      Eh? Robin doesn’t have to get around this, since this procedure is already commonly done.

      • simpleton

        For other genetic markers, yes. Not for paternity.

        If the patient was an adult, there’d be no question that their consent was necessary for this additional test, even if the doctors were already in possession of the blood.

      • Glycerine

        Babies do not have the same level of privacy and rights that an adult does, which is why they will sacrifice the life of the child if the birth will likely kill the mother. The father has for more of a right no know whether he has been deceived than the baby does to a father. The fault lies 100% with the mother in these cases if the man leaves.

  • hbk

    The utilitarians saying that we should not care too much about who the real father is (after all some guy who thinks he is the biological father is almost as good as the biological father), might want to consider the harm to an older child caused by the cuckold withdrawing parental affection from the child once the parentage is revealed.

    Since you such principled utilitarians, please avoid condemning this behavior on moral grounds–for your utilitarian analysis all that matters is that at least some men will withdraw such affections. It seems to me that the loss of a heretofore parent in this way would be far more traumatic than never having a father, and likely even worse than the death of a father, as it is an explicit rejection of the child. Mandatory paternity testing would stop this terrible trauma and at very little cost.

    • Jambuc828

      Why does every one keep saying something about cuckold husband what the hell is a cuckold husband??

  • john

    I vote for taxing everybody. If that’s not politically feasible, I may very well support the status quo.

    • Doug S.

      I, too, support a basic income guarantee.

  • sabril

    “But child-welfare experts counter that a child shouldn’t be punished by losing the only father she has ever known — or the financial security he offers — just because he’s upset that she doesn’t share his genes. … Child-welfare advocates say that making biology the sole determinant of paternity in cases like Smith’s puts the nonbiological father’s interest above the child’s. … ‘Is it my kid?”

    I agree that this is a lame argument. What if a father murders the mother of his children. Should we refrain from imprisoning the father because then the children won’t have any parent around to take care of them? Of course not. Justice demands that society punish wrongdoers even though innocent third parties may be harmed as a result.

    Similarly, justice demands that a man who is the victim of cuckoldry be excused from any obligations towards the children involved.

    “”Men are clearly reluctant to request a paternity test at birth””

    Mainly because they don’t want their wives to know about it. But it’s easy enough to do such a test on the sly.

    • Jim Vernon


      Justice demands that society punish wrongdoers even though innocent third parties may be harmed as a result.

      Um. No. Justice demands — by definition! — that innocent third parties not be harmed. Blind retribution might demand what you ask, but justice demands something far more exacting.

      • random goof

        Now hang on a second here. Did you really say and mean that?

        Justice demands — by definition! — that innocent third parties not be harmed.-???!

        Really? Ok. So are you saying that if a thief breaks into your house and steals everything and is caught, justice demands–by definition!!! (three exclamation points!)– that he is not punished because that would cause harm to his innocent children?

        By this rationale, anyone with a child can commit any crime, and that–by definition!–is retarded.

  • Lynsey

    You guys have no. idea. what it’s like. Sitting here chatting about biological incentives and about how, after some careful mulling, you’ve decided that rape is “an acute trauma” but you think that finding out that your partner had had a baby with someone else is about the same.

    No. No. No. You have no idea what it’s like; stop talking out of your ass. Talking about this kind of stuff from a distant “But what is the biological incentive here?” is offensive because rape is a reality for MANY women, and you’re totally ignoring the societal and psychological factors at work.

    This whole post and comment thread is just so mind bogglingly offensive and upsetting.

    • http://wintershaven.net Jacob Wintersmith

      No, the men here don’t know what rape is like. And you have no idea what being cuckolded is like.

    • Linda Gottfredson’s Apprentice

      Who cares Lynsey. Get over it. Shit happens.

      Just as men can avoid being cuckolded by carefully choosing their partners and being vigilant and engaging in mate guarding, women can avoid being raped by being careful about who they associate with.

      • Jim Vernon

        So, rape victims deserve it?

      • Kiefer

        That’s.. really cruel. Holy shit, there are rationalists like this? Shame on you, linda.

  • Z

    can’t a prediction market solve this?

  • Linda Gottfredson’s Apprentice

    Robin says:

    My wife added that mandatory baby paternity testing seems to unfairly punish moms who “accidentally” misled men about paternity, and it would legitimize harmful suspicious attitudes of men during pregnancy.

    Women do not accidentally mislead men about paternity. They deliberately do it, because they know that the welfare of their babies depends (for the most part) on the support they receive from a male.

    Of course, on the other hand, there are men who walk away from pregnant women.

    However, two wrongs do not make a right, and we can expect there to have been an arms race between men and women. Women want the best genes they can get for their offspring as well as a dependable provider (although that is probably less the case for Africans and other groups where women can reliably provision themselves and their offspring) and the two do not necessarily come in the same body. Men on the other hand, or at least those who are descended from a long line of males are likely to be good at detecting cuckoldry and to have evolved emotional defences against it.

    On the third hand, I don’t really care much about rape unless it happens to my daughters. I have never raped a woman and never plan to do so. Hell, I have even walked away from women who were hot to trot, perhaps because I judged their genes not good enough.

    And to Jacob who says:

    And you have no idea what being cuckolded is like.

    You are correct. I have seen the DNA tests for my offspring. However, I know how my stepfather felt, because of the abuse he heaped on my mother, and after her death, on my brother and I.

  • funny business

    it’s unbelievable that anyone could justify punishing one person for another’s indiscretion.

    when you advocate against mandatory paternity testing, you do just that. Let’s remove rape from the equation and examine cuckolding as an issue.

    1. A cuckolded man’s WIFE had sex with someone other than him.
    2. She gets impregnated with the other man’s baby.
    3. She gives birth, and the cuckold has to expend massive amounts of time, money, and energy to raise a child whose very existence is an insult to him.
    4. If the father finds out and disowns the child, HE gets blamed for the child’s emotional difficulties regarding the matter.
    5. The mother gets out of this scot-free. See a problem here? The wronged parties (the cuckold and the child) pay the price for the mother’s indiscretion.

    and paternity testing should not be mandatory because it ‘hurts’ women?

  • http://fairmaidenintrouble.blogspot.com Arnold D’Souza

    Would mandatory paternity testing also bring about a sharp decline in the number of women who cheat? (Or at least make them cheat more carefully, with respect to contraceptive measures?) One would think that this is one obvious outcome of the step.

    I am, personally, not in favor of “mandatory” paternity testing. I would like to leave it as a choice to the ‘father’ to decide whether he wishes to have it done or not. Perhaps the hospitals can be just a little more clear in stating that “Hey! It’s available, if you’re interested!”

  • Alex

    This comment thread has been very interesting, but there is one point I can’t believe hasn’t been made yet:

    If a cuckold never finds out he is a cuckold, and lives his whole life fully believing his “child” is biologically his, has he been harmed at all? Further, could his life actually have been made better by the deception?

    To clarify one thing – I am 100% in favour of mandatory paternity testing at birth. But I consider the above point as a very strong one against me.

    Of course, in general, deception is harmful.

    However, it is very plausible that full disclosure of all facts regarding you would probably make you worse off. If you knew of all the times people had bitched about you, not found you attractive when you thought they did, lied to you to keep you happy, etc, then your life (very plausibly) would be worse.

    So in principle the idea of ‘pretty lies’ (as Roissy would call them) are not controversial (I believe). And it is plausible that situations like this occur:

    A man is cuckolded, never finds out and lives a happy life raising the child. The child never finds out and has a loving, fulfilling relationship with the father. The mother is guilty, but that lessens over time and she takes great pleasure from her home life. The non-biological father does not pay huge sums of money raising the child, and his own family (in this scenario I posit that he has one) is not disrupted.

    The alternative with mandatory paternity testing is that the cuckold is devastated and loses his wife (albeit unfaithful wife), and future family. The child is raised by a bitter single mother. The mother, clearly, has a worse time (leave aside whether it is a good thing that she does). The non-biological father gets dragged in financially, and his family (if he has one) is ruined.

    Now, in this scenario, EVERYONE involved is worse off with the truth coming out – IF you agree that living a happy lie does not count as harm. If you think the cuckold IS harmed in the first scenario, you can disagree with this contention.

    Now, I know that there are further considerations to take into account here (for example, that as people have mentioned, you would expect far fewer women to attempt to cuckold their husbands if mandatory paternity testing came into force). But leaving that aside, is it possible that MPT could in certain cases harm EVERYONE involved? If so and there are enough such cases, should MPT be reconsidered?

    As I see it there are two defences of MPT. One is philosophical – you could argue that people can be harmed even if they have no idea they are being harmed. I think such a defence is impossible (though I expect people to try).

    The other is empirical. If you could show that the net benefit of MPT is positive, there is a case for it. But it is very hard to see how you could do that. How could you prove how many fewer women would conceive without their husband/partner’s sperm were MPT to come into force? The only solution I can see is to see in other countries what happened when the change was made. But if no other countries have MPT, how can one country make the first decision?

    I worry for MPT, for these reasons.

    • Grant

      To take on the philosophical defense of MPT:

      The man is harmed. If you accept that the constituent element of biological life is a creature’s genes, then being duped into raising another’s offspring is a direct attack on the imperative of those genes: to survive and replicate. If anyone disputes this proposition, read some books on evolutionary biology.

      Allow me to present an thought experiment. Although I don’t have a controlled experiment or field study for rock solid proof, I think it makes sense:

      Imagine that a man and a woman get married. The woman is capable of getting pregnant and the man’s sperm are capable of inducing pregnancy. Instead of engaging in sexual intercourse with her husband and getting pregnant, the woman decides to head to a sperm bank, select a random sample of sperm from the freezer, and inject herself with it. 9 months later a baby appears. Keep in mind that she has not actually had sexual intercourse with another man. She is just bearing that other man’s child.

      Would the husband be bothered by this?

      I think the average husband, reflecting his biologically hardwired urge to spread his own seed, would be highly bothered by it.

      • Alex

        @Grant:

        “Would the husband be bothered by this?”

        But Grant, this is exactly the point I was trying to make – the husband (in my scenario) never finds out the child is not his! Of course if he was told and given proof, then he would be bothered (I assume). But I am thinking of the cases where he never knows. In that case is he harmed?

        This is what I meant when I said the defence is either philosophical or empirical. You can either argue that even when the husband never knows the child is not his, he is still harmed (I see you have made an evolutionary argument in that direction), or you can argue that there won’t be many cases where everyone is made worse off by MPT. Or you could argue both, of course.

    • GT

      “The mother is guilty, but that lessens over time and she takes great pleasure from her home life.”

      I would take great pleasure in knowing I just got away with infidelity and some poor sap is paying for my screw up. Wouldn’t you?????

      • Alex

        Possibly. I’m sure in some cases, you are right. But I imagine there some percentage of women would feel guilty doing such a thing to the person they love (I realise they may not love them, but surely at least some do). I was only generating a plausible case – as I stated, how common that case is empirically is up for debate.

    • anon

      “If you knew of all the times people had bitched about you, not found you attractive when you thought they did, lied to you to keep you happy, etc, then your life (very plausibly) would be worse.”

      Perhaps so, but only to the extent that people wrongly expect to be “better than average” in these respects. Arguably, overconfidence is a dangerous tendency which should not be encouraged.

      The issue of emotional harm to someone who discovers they’ve been cuckolded can be solved via insurance. If the child is yours, you lose some money but you also gain by knowing your status with certainty; otherwise you get compensated. There will be some issues due to imperfect information, but the overall result is that those who care enough about the issue will take the test, and everyone else won’t.

      I do think that not allowing an “opt-out” from the test would be problematic, since many people will not want to know and that choice should be respected.

      • Alex

        ” “If you knew of all the times people had bitched about you, not found you attractive when you thought they did, lied to you to keep you happy, etc, then your life (very plausibly) would be worse.”

        Perhaps so, but only to the extent that people wrongly expect to be “better than average” in these respects. Arguably, overconfidence is a dangerous tendency which should not be encouraged.”

        I don’t know about this. Even if the charges against you are true – that you are ugly, say, and you know this – your life is still made worse if people constantly tell you so, and you know about all the times people say so behind you back. I don’t think overconfidence is really the issue.

    • uncontainable_spirit

      So essentially that position is saying that we should leave the man ignorant and used. The man is in effect a slave in this scenario simply because he doesn’t know. The woman has committed a crime and does so with no punishment. This is the same argument as the French where men are forbidden by law to attempt to find out whether the child they are paying for is in fact their child or not.

      That’s insane to me. There is NO logical reason why there should not be genetic testing at birth. Paternity Fraud is a crime. To simply let it go is to let criminals (duplicitous mothers) roam freely. Paternity fraud is one of the very few crimes that indeed has a sex. Violence doesn’t have a sex. Rape doesn’t have a sex. Heck, not even breast cancer has a sex. But paternity fraud is a crime of deceit that has a sex – and it’s the female sex. It’s an offense committed solely by women against men and children. And it’s an offense that is not only legal almost everywhere, but actively encouraged by the French state by putting men who seek the truth in jail and making them pay huge fines.

      That alone is reason enough in my opinion. Want to know what the rationale is of the French? “The French government keeps this ban in place arguing that not allowing men to find out whether their wives cuckolded them or not preserves the peace within French families.”… WHAT IN THE HECK?!?!?! So basically as long as women are OK and children are OK then there is peace. Men on the other hand, we don’t give a sh*t whether you’re OK or not.

      Men are people too. Cuckoldry is, at least from the gene’s point of view, the worst thing that can befall a man outside of getting killed. We are here on this earth to serve one purpose — the propagation of our genes. Everything we do is either designed to push us toward that goal or is a byproduct of that purpose. So when a wife cheats on a husband, bears another man’s child, and then monopolizes the time and resources of her husband toward the raising of that child, she has stolen his reproductive sovereignty just as surely as hers would be stolen if she got pregnant by a male rapist and was forced to raise a child she didn’t want.

      She has committed the equivalent of female rape.

      By having a mandatory DNA test, there would be no cuckolding at all ever. We have the unique opportunity to completely eliminate a crime (paternity fraud) yet there are those who are not interested in exploring it because it hurts someone’s feelings to do so? Huh? lol!

      Let’s have a look at how women react to being fooled: A Mother’s Nightmare: Babies Switched at Birth – ABC News

      Two women were sent home from hospital with the wrong babies. Within hours the hospital called to tell them they had made a mistake. “The women have asked for monetary damages of more than $50,000 a piece and a jury trial in a Williamson County court.”

      Another case: Couple Sues Hospital After Mother Breastfeeds Wrong Baby | Strollerderby

      Sometimes it took longer for the mistake to be noted. Here the mother is suing for 31 million: Washingtonpost.com: Mother of Switched Baby Sues for $31M

      Now let’s go back to the men: Dad wasn’t dad after all, but still owes child support / The Christian Science Monitor – CSMonitor.com

      Even worse, one man even went to jail over child support for another man’s child: Childless man freed after serving time for child support violations – CNN.com

      So, what can we learn from these cases? When women find out they had the wrong baby -even for a couple of hours- they want money for the psychological hardship. When men find out they had the wrong baby -even for years – Meh!

    • uncontainable_spirit

      Most importantly though is this… women are making an issue that is not about women ALL ABOUT WOMEN. This issue isn’t about women. Let’s not center women in this issue because they are not at the center of it, men are. The issue is a human right of parenting. It is about the right to choose when and whom to parent, basically the same right women claim in abortion, only in this case no one dies. It is about the right of man to recourse when he is defrauded by his wife or whomever else, if only to be relieved of a baseless obligation to support someone else’s child. A woman’s interest in this matter is at best tertiary – after the father, then after the child.

      To be perfectly blunt, women’s feelings in this matter of Mandatory DNA testing are exactly as relevant as a man’s feelings are about abortion. On a macro, societal, level they matter not a whit. On a personal level they matter only as much as the woman’s partner chooses to take them into account.

  • GT

    If you are with a woman who is against paternity testing at birth is already indicating to you she is afraid of the results. Hmmm??? I wonder why??????

    Any man against paternity testing is a beta puss.

  • Ex Tango

    “Mandatory” birth defect screening tests at hospitals have an opt-out option. Anything else would be an unconstitutional seizure of one’s person. It’s mandatory in the sense that the government makes the tests automatic, without the parents asking for them, but the parents can ALWAYS refuse the tests. What you’re advocating is FORCED paternity testing, to protect idiots from themselves. (It’s not like mail-order paternity tests are hard to get or illegal, after all.) That’s OK if you’re a liberal nanny-state socialist, I guess …

  • http://purplemotes.net Douglas Galbi

    The cited article claims:

    The most extensive and authoritative report…concluded that 2 percent of men with “high paternity confidence” — married men who had every reason to believe they were their children’s father — were, in fact, not biological parents.

    The suppressed reference is to a meta-analysis by Anderson, appearing in Current Anthropology in 2006. The analyzed studies do not specify their samples as “married men who had every reason to believe they were their children’s father”. Moreover, the specification of the 2% statistic isn’t correct. A more comprehensive review of non-paternity statistics suggests that roughly 5% of children in high-income countries falsely identify their biological father.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    I just added to this post.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    Douglas Galbi emailed me this comment to post:

    The cited article claims:

    The most extensive and authoritative report…concluded that 2 percent of men with “high paternity confidence” — married men who had every reason to believe they were their children’s father — were, in fact, not biological parents.

    The suppressed reference is to a meta-analysis by Anderson, appearing in Current Anthropology in 2006. The analyzed studies do not specify their samples as “married men who had every reason to believe they were their children’s father”. Moreover, the specification of the 2% statistic isn’t correct. A more comprehensive review of non-paternity statistics suggests that roughly 5% of children in high-income countries falsely identify their biological father.

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  • Spunkloaf

    Less regulation, less mandates.

  • Michael Wengler

    Exactly what great problem are we solving by having MANDATORY testing for paternity at birth?  I was under the impression that for something to be mandatory, forced on people who don’t want it, there had to be a fairly compelling win somewhere.  

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  • MadamBelladonna

    Personally, I think it should be offered free of cost at birth (privately, if a man is worried about causing relationship problems by accepting the test), but I don’t think it should be mandatory. No one should be able to force a DNA test. There are too many ways that could be abused. If you refuse the paternity test, it’s your own fault that you were deceived into raising another man’s child.

    I also think that men that have taken a paternity test at a later date (sometimes a man can be quite confident he’s the dad when the baby is born, but may find out about infidelity later on) should be let off the hook. I don’t they should still be legally required to support that child, even if they had done so up until finding out the truth. Sucks for the kid, yes, but I don’t agree with forcing someone to care for a child that isn’t theirs.

  • IMASBA

    I read about some other studies that claim only 0.5%-1% children are conceived by someone other than the husband or longterm partner of the mother (and without the knowledge of that husband or long term partner), they even claimed the figure hasn’t changed much in the past 200 years. The research was, if I remember correctly, done in the Netherlands, Belgium and Britain.

    In any case paternity testing is obviously different from tests for diseases because it involves the privacy and secrets of the mother. Making it a standard test enables people to avoid the “but honey, if you really loved me you would trust me” discussion, but the data would have to be immediately destroyed after the reveal to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands and somewhere I do question how standard paternity testing by the state is different from the state offering women free private detectives to follow their husbands around…

    By the way, who cheats without protection? Isn’t that the stupidest thing you can do in an already stupid situation?

  • Evil Unicorn

    This happen to my husband and his ex wife. She cheated, tried to pass the kid as his, he found out, demanded a paternity test, and got divorced. He is NOT paying child support. There should definitely be Laws that make DNA testing automatic at birth. We are having our first child together, and I know he is the father, I don’t cheat, but I am asking for a paternity test because I want to resolve any doubts his family or his stupid ex might have. I know I shouldn’t care, but I want to rub it in her face, if she decides to be stupid about it.