DNA paternity testing: Public perceptions and the influence of gender

Lyn Turney, Michael Gilding, Christine Critchley, Penelope Shields, Lisa Bakacs, Kerrie-Anne Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reports on the findings of the Swinburne National Technology and Society Monitor in relation to public perceptions of DNA paternity testing, with particular reference to the effects of gender. The Monitor included a large-scale random survey and focus groups. Taken together, the survey and focus groups suggest that most Australians are ‘comfortable’ with DNA paternity testing in a variety of contexts. At the same time, this comfort is qualified, conditional upon the knowledge of all parties. It is also tentative, heavily grounded in the media rather than real-life experience. The survey and focus groups suggest that most men and women do not hold different perceptions of DNA paternity testing. There are several important caveats though. First, the focus groups suggest that reliance upon the media as a source of information leads to a ‘gendered perception’ of DNA paternity testing in terms of ‘paternity fraud’ for both men and women. Second, the survey shows that women are significantly more likely to feel comfortable about DNA paternity testing where all parties have agreed to the test, consistent with a concern to establish paternal responsibility and
child support. Finally, the focus groups suggest that having a personal stake in DNA paternity testing generates opinions that are polarised on the basis of gender. The gender dynamics of public perceptions on DNA paternity testing are likely to become more important as the tests become more widespread.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


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