Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Power, Knowledge and the Discourse of “Paternity Fraud”

Lyn Turney.

In the first Australian study of its kind, paternity testing was shown to have the overwhelming support of the general public. This paper reports the findings of a follow-up focus group study that explored attitudes to DNA paternity testing in more depth. In particular, the results suggest that public attitudes are informed by media generated knowledge based on high profile cases of disputed paternity – such as in ‘misattributed paternity’ and ‘paternity fraud’. The paper argues that this particular understanding is strongly influenced by men’s rights activists, resulting in significant changes to the dominant discourse around child support and paternal obligation. The results also suggest that the technology, and the knowledge it produces, is used and experienced quite differently by men and women with a stake in paternity testing. Men want to maintain easy and cheap access to commercial, direct-to-the-public testing and the right to private knowledge about paternity. Women, on the other hand, require formal validation of paternity for legal and official purposes, so tests are perceived to be engaged in the production of public knowledge. This has implications for policy and other discursive practices.


Lyn Turney  (Australia)
Lecturer in Sociology
Australian Centre for Emerging Technologies and Society (ACETS)
Swinburne University of Technology

Dr Lyn Turney is a Lecturer in Sociology and Director of the Biotechnology and Society program for the Australian Centre for Emerging Technologies and Society (ACETS) at Swinburne University of Technology.

  • Paternity Testing
  • Paternity Fraud
  • Misattributed Paternity
  • Public Attitudes
  • Men's Rights
  • Paternal Obligation
  • Child Support

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)