One in 25 fathers may not be the biological parent of the child
they believe to be theirs, according to a study by a team from
Liverpool John Moores University headed by Professor Mark Bellis.
“Such knowledge can… destroy families, affecting the health of
the child and mother as well as that of any man who is subsequently
identified as the biological parent,” Bellis says.
For hundreds of years, of course, men have been cuckolded. What’s
different now is that definitive proof is available in terms of DNA
testing and genetic profiling.
In spite of Professor Bellis’s pessimism on the consequences of
lifting the lid on a “Pandora’s Box” of hidden sexual behaviour,
how the father reacts and the scale of the impact on the family
must surely vary hugely, depending upon the age of the son or
daughter when the discovery is made, the circumstances of
disclosure – and the maturity of the adults involved.
Research says that the better off are still more likely to have
extramarital sex – in part because they lead lives which offer more
opportunity, since the man and, increasingly, the woman will spend
time away from home in work.
At the other end of the economic spectrum, the Children’s Society
estimates that 15,000 young people a year are “throwaway” children,
ejected from the home prematurely, sometimes on the instructions of
a step-parent who doesn’t wish to give succour to another man’s
Stories of abuse abound but less reported are the examples of men,
handicapped by economic hardship, who have bonded strongly with
other men’s children and successfully raised them as their own.
Trust is obviously an issue if a DNA test is demanded and children
may bear the brunt of the possible fallout. In this country,
between 8,900 and 20,000 DNA tests are conducted a year – 5,000 on
the orders of the Child Support Agency. Again, research indicates
that relationships, given good support, can and do adjust, adapt
and even improve in the aftermath of betrayal.
If proof of adultery is sought then it’s probably safe to assume
that the relationship is less than healthy. What’s more admirable
is the behaviour of those men who choose not to confirm what they
may have long suspected because they put the welfare of a child
first; a child they have loved from birth.
Human behaviour can and does constantly surprise – thankfully, a
blood connection isn’t the only tie that binds.