Majority of Americans Question the Truth of their Birth

More than half of people surveyed doubted their own immediate family's DNA truths. Some wait decades to pursue the answers, while others are still waiting.
Jared Rosenthal
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56% of Americans have considered or already taken a DNA test because they have doubts about whether they know the full truth about their biological relationship to their immediate family, a new study by Health Street revealed. Even more shocking is the duration of time most people wait to put their doubts to rest. Of those who had already pursued testing —  83% stated that they waited more than a year after first starting to have questions. Of those who have yet to confront their doubts, 64% have been contemplating the decision for over a year, with 13% waiting for over a decade and counting.

DNA Tests Put Off for Decades

Health Street, a nationwide DNA testing company featured on national programs such as VH1’s Swab Stories, conducted the original research with the goal of seeing whether the average individual was living with questions about their DNA connections, what the origins of those doubts were, and — in a society with increasingly easy access to DNA testing — what was holding them back from putting their doubts to rest. 

To find their answers, Health Street surveyed 870 respondents across two states, Texas and New York, seeking to paint a portrait of testing norms that broke free from regional biases. The study was conducted through anonymous online polling to ensure respondents would have no motivation to report on their experiences inaccurately. 

Though the types of connections being questioned and the reasons for having doubts varied by region, the prevalence of DNA questions and the hesitancy to pursue answers was largely consistent throughout. 

The Most Common Questions

Unsurprisingly, the connection questioned most often was that of paternity, with 47.6% of New Yorkers and 51.3% of Texans stating they were unsure of who their father was or whether the father they knew was biologically related to them. “Child” was a distant second for respondents in both regions, coming in with 16.2% of the vote in New York and 14.1% in Texas. 

Questions into the connection with other family members varied in popularity by region. While 13.9% of New Yorkers has questions about their mother, only 8.7% of Texans felt the same. In contrast, 8.6% of New Yorkers had questions about a sibling, compared to 14% of Texans. Grandparent testing was a popular consideration in Texas (9.6%), but barely registered in New York (2.8%). 

The reasons for wanting more answers about one’s father were similar across surveyed regions, with one notable exception: while it was most common for New Yorkers to state their questions arose from never knowing their father (23.8%), most Texans were actually suspicious because those they did grow up with a father-figure, they were not sure that the person they knew was biologically related to them (30.6%). 

This dynamic was exemplified in the answers to “Do you know the person who you would like to test for a DNA match?’, with only 45.7% of New Yorkers responding in the affirmative, as opposed to 62% of Texans. 

Reasons for Delaying DNA Testing 

Health Street’s study revealed that a total of 47% of people who performed DNA tests lived with their doubt for more than 10 years, with some waiting upwards of 40 years. Written responses showed that many people wanted to pursue testing because of the fear of what a DNA test would reveal, not wanting to show distrust in their partner or their parents, and being afraid of the answers forcing them to make a drastic life change, like leaving their partner. 

Of those who had never taken a DNA test but were actively considering one, only an average of 44% had been on the fence for a year or less, with the majority of respondents putting off a final decision for considerably longer. In fact, across regions, over 12% of respondents said that they have been waiting more than a decade to decide whether to pursue testing. As with the prior group, fear over potential results and the relationships they might ruin were paramount amongst reasons for waiting. 

Despite the preponderance of fears, survey results from those who had opted for DNA testing proved overwhelmingly positive. Asked how grateful, on a scale of 1-10, they felt to have answers to questions about their familial connections answered, 30% replied with a perfect 10 on the gratefulness scale. In fact, across regions, only 5% of the total vote fell to any number below a 5. Overall, average satisfaction levels came to a 7.4. 

The Importance of Accurate and Convenient DNA Testing

Among New York participants, 41% of responders who pursued DNA tests felt confident they would have a familial connection to the other person being tested. However, 60% ended up surprised by the results of the test. In Texas, 44% of responders said they were confident the results would be a match, but 40% were surprised with the results. Living in doubt and uncertainty has its negative effects. 

Delaying DNA testing can have emotional and, in some cases, even legal repercussions. When the question of familial connection is hanging over your head, it’s not going to go away. Addressing the knowledge gap with a DNA test sooner rather than later can help resolve emotional unrest and confusion and, as survey results show, lead to significant rates of satisfaction despite initial trepidation. 

Health Street’s wide range of DNA tests can be performed in our licensed testing facilities or right in the comfort of your own home, with the help of a Health Street home testing kit. Our cost-effective options keep your budget top-of-mind, while providing accurate insights into biological connections. We offer paternity testing, grandparent testing, sibling testing, safe prenatal DNA testing, and more. 

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WRITTEN BY

Jared is the Founder of Health Street, the creator of the Who's Your Daddy DNA truck, and the host of VH1's Swab Stories.

WRITTEN BY

Jared is the Founder of Health Street, the creator of the Who's Your Daddy DNA truck, and the host of VH1's Swab Stories.

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DNA Testing

Read Health Street's dramatic and informative DNA testing stories.

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DNA Testing

Read Health Street's dramatic and informative DNA testing stories.