Discovering your presumed father is not your biological father: Psychiatric ramifications of independently uncovered non-paternity events resulting from direct-to-consumer DNA testing

Chen Avni*, Dana Sinai, Uri Blasbalg, Paz Toren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Direct-to-consumer DNA tests provide information on ancestry and family relations. Their increased use in recent years has led many to discover that their presumed father is not their biological father, a non-paternity event (NPE). We aimed to explore and quantify the psychiatric effects of discovering one's father's identity was misattributed. We distributed questionnaires in a private online community of individuals who learned they were NPEs. Questionnaires included clinical scales assessing depressive, anxiety, and panic symptomatology as well as background and personal details regarding participants' NPE discovery and demography. A total of 731 people participated. Results demonstrated increased levels of depression, anxiety, and panic symptoms relative to controls. Multiple factors influenced such effects, including demographics, background information, family members' reactions, and personal reactions. We identified a worsening relationship or attitude toward the mother as a risk factor for worse mental health. The ability to openly discuss the discovery and acceptance of it were identified as protective factors. This is the first paper to explore the psychiatric sequelae of discovering misattributed paternity in a large cohort. This unique psychosocial stressor is likely to become more common as direct-to-consumer DNA tests gain popularity, requiring the attention of mental health professionals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115142
JournalPsychiatry Research
Volume323
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2023

Keywords

  • Direct-to-consumer DNA test
  • Misattributed paternity
  • NPE
  • Non-paternity event
  • Not paternity expected

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