What Are the Causes of False Positive DNA on Paternity Tests?

By Tracy Twyman - Updated June 19, 2017
Mother and father swinging daughter

While the odds of a paternity test yielding a false positive result are rare, it is possible. Any man who has been named as the father of a child through paternity testing may wonder about the validity of the result.

Types

There are two main methods of DNA testing. According to the Separated Parenting Access & Resource Center (SPARC), Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) uses swab samples and yields faster, but less accurate, results than the older method, fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), which usually uses blood samples.

Laboratories

Different laboratories will have different levels of accuracy based on how many genetic markers they test for. A 99 percent accuracy rate is much less reliable than one of 99.99 percent, which is what SPARC, a nonprofit organization, recommends.

Precision

The problem with tests that look for fewer genetic markers is that there may be other people who share the same markers as the potential father in question, and thus, a possible false positive result.

Misconceptions

Many people think they must wait until the baby is born to test paternity, but according to the DNA Diagnostics Center, this can be tested as early as 10 weeks into the pregnancy.

Caution

According to the DNA Diagnostics Center, less expensive tests, in the $99 range, may use techniques that are not within the industry protocol and thus might not stand up in court.

About the Author

A writer and editor since 1994, Tracy Twyman is the author of nonfiction books such as "Solomon's Treasure," "Money Grows on the Tree of Knowledge" and "The Merovingian Mythos." She has also written for the "Bridge Newspaper," "Paranoia Magazine," "Propaganda Magazine," "Dagobert's Revenge Magazine" and WKQW radio news. Twyman received a Bachelor of Arts in media arts from New Jersey City University.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article