Nonpaternity Events

24 March, 2006

We are processing some new data. Out of about 300 families each with around 4 people (both parents and some # of offspring), there were two nonpaternity events, which are what they sound like. “Dad” isn’t dad. (Both families had another sibling who was really the kid of both.)

I find this really fascinating. For one, this is genetics. WE KNOW. “In these situations we throw the whole pedigree out,” my PI tells me — but why? You can just exclude the one kid and use the other, they are still informative–because YOU KNOW that other kid IS of the parentage you want. It’s a standard sciencey thing to do with messy data, but in this case it amounts to tossing the baby with the bathwater.

Also: I love the dramatic potential of this situation. Imagine the mother’s POV. Your child is participating in a genetic study and they would very much like your participation, which you provide. You are interviewed about your mental health history, and if you have a history of mental illness (which one mother did), it’s a pretty long interview. At some point, somebody draws your blood. And the whole time you know that you are messing with the genetic study because one of your kids does not have the paternity everyone thinks they do. “She might not know herself,” my PI says. Well, she sure as heck knows it’s a POSSIBILITY — and in that case, the study participation is in the context of a lifetime of wondering about that kid and who dad really was. What a cool plot device that could be.

(No, we DON’T tell them, not even if they ask.)

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One Response to “Nonpaternity Events”

  1. kees Says:

    Can’t they ask for the results of the DNA thingies and discover it for themselves, or won’t you let them have their DNA results?


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