Fatherhood is not in the DNA

With the blessings of advanced technological methods, many previously unknown social questions are now easily answered through simple medical testing. Paternity validation is one of the formerly illusive pieces of information that impacts many social, psychological, economic and legal family issues.

To secure the financial welfare of children all states have laws requiring fathers to bear financial responsibility for their children. Normally, the husband is assumed to be the biological father of the child. However, in cases of unclaimed or contested paternity, fatherhood is determined by DNA testing and the State Court determines the father’s monetary obligation to the child.

In “Losing Fatherhood”, Columbia University Professor Ruth Padawer states, “Over the last decade, the number of paternity tests taken every year increased by 64 percent, to more than 400,000.” She recites one case of a married father of a four- year-old girl, whom he dearly loved and presumed to be his biological daughter until he learned from his wife that his beloved daughter was not genetically his. In order to preserve his every other weekend visitation with his daughter while he was awaiting the court ruling about his ongoing financial obligation, he continued to pay child support to his wife even after she married the daughter’s biological father.

This man is one of many who exhibit fatherly love and devotion to their children, regardless of the biological basis of their connection. He stated, “Believing you are genetically connected makes something happen between people. All the emotions and feelings were there because we were convinced we were linked. I had committed myself to this child, and when I found out she wasn’t my child, how could I just step away?”

Another father stated, “I spent thousands and thousands of dollars and it hasn’t cost the biological father a penny, and yeah, I am angry but, telling my daughter the truth would have been more psychologically harmful to her than it is worth.”  The consideration, protectiveness and wisdom of this father came from his tender heart and loving soul shielding his daughter from grief and securing her state of emotional security knowing she was cherished and loved.

If parenthood was predominantly a matter of shared DNA, how could adoptive couples be great parents? Being both an adoptive and a biological mother, I can attest to the depth of love I felt for all our boys to be deep, profound and equal in every way.

Fatherhood is about love, dedication and protection as well as the wellspring of attentive efforts exerted to enable your child to be healthy, happy and thrive. These emotions and efforts are instinctual reactions of protection, deep love and tender connection – not dictated by a DNA match.

To non-biological fathers:

  • Be assured that your fatherhood originates in your heart – not in your DNA.
  • Follow your instinctual love for your child, regardless of his/her biological origin.
  • Protect your legal rights as you see fit as you preserve your devotion to your child.









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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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