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The Effects of Paternity Testing on Mental Health

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DNA testing has opened many doors when it comes to taking better care of our health. The science of genetic testing has allowed individuals to know the diseases and disorders they may be at risk of having. Early intervention is now an option, thanks to genetic testing. 

The advancements in DNA testing has also brought estranged family members together even after decades of separation. Through paternity testing, it is easy to know for sure whether two people – particularly a father and a child – are biologically related. 

But the outcomes of paternity testing are not simply positive or negative. When a family decides to undergo paternity testing, there are lasting consequences that go beyond the test result. 

Paternity testing and its impact on mental health

The decision to undergo paternity testing is never an easy one. It will be surrounded by controversies, questions, doubts, and fears. 

The result of a paternity test can uncover bitter truths that are hard to swallow. If it turns out that the child is not biologically related to the person they consider their father, they may feel hurt, unwanted, and unloved. 

And if the child turns out to be biologically related to a person they don’t deeply know, they may feel confused, unsure, or even afraid. They may also suffer from mental health disorders such as depression at a very young age. Other mental health problems the child is at risk of developing are anxiety and even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

But paternity testing also affects the mental health of the father in question. Stress and anxiety are commonly reported by fathers while waiting for their paternity test results. While a positive result can give a feeling of huge relief, a negative result can be incredibly hurtful. Much like the child, the alleged father may also feel rejected and confused. 

It is also not surprising to know that many fathers and stepfathers feel guilty after undergoing a paternity test, knowing that it may uncover secrets that can break a family apart. 

The other side of paternity testing

It is inevitable that undergoing paternity testing will have negative impacts on mental health. But on the other side of the coin, many families are thankful to have bitten the bullet.

With or without the presence of a paternity test, doubts about a child’s paternity can still threaten to destroy a family. Even simple differences between siblings, which is totally normal, can provoke a child to think that they are not the real offspring of their parents.

In some cases, knowing the truth can be freeing. For men who are victims of paternity fraud, a negative paternity test result can free them of the obligation of providing for a child who is not theirs. Hence, a paternity test can be very beneficial for the victim’s mental health.

For many families, the result of a paternity test holds the key to having peace of mind. Yes, the test has the potential of uncovering a bitter truth, but truth withheld can be more destructive in the long run. 

Because paternity testing is bound to have dramatic impacts on mental health, families are recommended to consider counselling before making the important decision. More importantly, it is crucial to choose a reliable DNA testing company for accurate results. 

Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in mental health and well-being.

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