Discovering Misattributed Paternity After DNA Testing and its Impact on Psychological Well-Being and Identity Formation

Ashley Shepard 1 * , David Diamond 1, Laura Willard 1, Jennifer Staples 1, Kirshjah Martin 1, Nicole Witherspoon 1

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp. 189-211

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This study explored how discovering misattributed paternity in adulthood after commercial DNA testing impacts psychological well-being and identity formation. Thirty-three subjects participated in this phenomenological qualitative study. Eighteen had experienced misattributed paternity, while the other 15 subjects discovered misattributed paternity due to being donor conceived. Three fundamental themes emerged in both the misattributed group and donor-conceived group that could be perceived as the core themes are: (a) sadness, grief, and loss; (b) seeking connection and belonging; and (c) betrayal and anger. Other significant themes revealed by both groups included: Otherness, Curiosity, Relief and Comfort, Surprise, Acceptance, and Empathy and Rationalization. Additional themes also revealed by the donor-conceived group, but not revealed in the misattributed group are: (a) existential concerns, (b) self-assuredness, and (c) right to know and advocacy. Overall, findings in this study reveal unique experiences between both groups, suggesting the circumstances around conception and discovery vary depending on misattributed status.

Keywords: misattributed paternity, DNA testing, psychological well-being, identity, donor-conceived