Cuckolding more prevalent than we think?

There was an article I read a few months ago that referenced the results about some sort of genetic (or genetic related) research being done on a very sizeable population set in Britan a few years ago, and one part of the result data astounded the researchers when they found that approxmately 10% of the children were not fathered by the men specifically claimed to be the biological male parent.

Are rates of cuckolding actually this high worldwide? Do men really not know that the child is not theirs or do they just play along? I’ve got two kids and I can see they are my kids by obvious physical similarities.

Do any dopers know of friends of theirs being cuckolded? Have any dopers cuckolded their SO’s or been cuckolded themselves? How do these situations play out as the kids get older and it becomes more and more obvious (to everyone) the purported father is not the bio-dad. At some point I would imagine the father has so much emotionally invested in the child that bio parentage doesn’t matter and that is what the mother is hoping for by the time the truth is evident.

Wow. 10 percent seems a wee bit high. Got a cite of some kind?

Not really conclusive evidence, IME. Unless extreme differences crop up, ie skin color, epicathal folds and so on, there’s always features in the infant that can be identified with by the purported fathers and grandparents. And given that infidelity until recent years generally took place in a relatively small gene pool, the male could find lots of features to identify with. Besides, denial is the easier, softer way.

Can’t help you with the other questions, tho.

I have nothing of substance to add to this thread, but I just wanted to say that I like the word “cuckold”.

Just pointing out that cuckold is probably a historical misnomer.

It does mean the husband of an adulterous wife and the word originates from the habits of the cuckoo.

However Samuel Johnson points out that it was usual to alarm a husband at the approach of an adulterer by calling out Cuckoo, which by mistake was in time applied to to the person so warned.

I heard about the same study, astro

I found a couple interesting links:

Pretty frightening stuff.

I’d like to see a cite that’s a bit more recent than the 1940s (what with things like world war, common teenage marriages, and general lack of birth control factoring in) unpublished report. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, or even at that rate, but I want more solid evidence.

By the bye, I have a friend who is helping to raise his daughter, now 12. He has been her parent, with partial custody and child-support payments, etc. ever since she was a baby. He knows, for a fact, that he is not her biological father, but in all public and private accounts, he is cited as such because a) her real father is an asshole, b) my friend was there when she was born and loves her as his own, and c) being cited as the biological father gives a man far greater rights regarding the child than merely being an involved figure in the child’s life. I suspect that in some cases, the parent may know he is not the biological father, but doesn’t consider that important compared to the love and responsibility he feels toward the child.

The number sure seems high – I’d like to see a more recent study.


P.S. On an unrelated note, does anyone know how I can get rid of these horns? :wink:

I agree.

Hmmm… interesting in looking at available cuckoldry studies, other than studies for chimpanzees and numerous other animal species, little if anything has been done recently with respect to humans (that I can find).

This would seem to be a fertile untapped field for a young sociologist or evolutionary psychologist looking for a thesis subject, however, I can also see how this would probably not be encouraged at an academic departmental levels as studies go, in that it has massive disruptive potential to families. But there are tons of studies about spousal fidelity or lack thereof. Is it the possible damage to children that preclude these studies from being undertaken?

In thinking about it I can see how this would make sense. There are few things more disruptive than a new father finding out he has been cuckolded and unless you lied to the test subjects I can’t see any cuckolding mother offering her child up for (assuming informed consent) a paternity test that would possibly shatter her family.

This cite says the current rate is more like one in seven:

From cynic’s link to the news item here is the specific article.

Policy: The Evolved Family by Helena Cronin and Oliver Curry January 2000

and here is a footnote of the study

“[7] Betzig L, ‘Where are the bastard’s daddies?’, Behavioural and Brain Sciences 285, 16, 1993. See also: Robin Baker 1996 “Sperm Wars: The science of sex” Basic Books, NY / Fourth Estate, London: “On average, about 10 percent of children are not sired by their supposed fathers. Some men, however, have a higher chance of being deceived in this way than others – and it is those of low wealth and status who fare worst. Actual figures range from 1 percent in high-status areas of the United States and Switzerland, to 5 to 6 percent for moderate-status males in the United States and Great Britain, to 10 to 30 percent for lower-status males in the United States, Great Britain and France. Moreover, the men most likely to sexually hoodwink the lower-status males are men of higher status.” (pp. 124–5)”

I had heard this same thing some while back, probably in the mainstream media, before I became a little more questioning in my acceptance of this type of stuff. On search, I came up with one possibility, see below, from an Anthropology Newsgroup.

Anecdotally, a friend of my wife came to stay with for a few weeks when she was seven months pregnant. She said she just had to “think some things over”. Before she even got there I told Mrs. ShibbOleth, “the baby is not her husband’s”. She responded that this was ridiculous. Sure enough, the father was a tennis pro she had been having an affair with. Talk about your cliches. She left her husband and is now happily married to the second guy, whom she has two children by.

IIRC, I heard these stastics on a TLC show. They referenced to studies-- one done in the 50s and another done in the 80s. Both numbers were around 10%, but as previously stated this dosen’t mean the men didn’t know. I know of 2 cases of cuckoldery (?). In one case the man knew, in the other he didn’t.

Negative review of Baker and Ellis Study - “Human Sperm Competition”
however, it doesn’t dispute the 9%-10% mis-attributed paternity figure only the spermatic “wars” mechanism the author’s postulate.

I must admit I find it difficult to believe that aproximately 10% of births in wedlock are the result of extramarital affairs.

First, this sounds to me more like evidence of a problem with the underlying paternity test than it does evidence of cuckoldry. How would you do a study to establish the baseline accuracy of a paternity test? The first thing I would do would be to do a study of children born in wedlock. If my paternity test indicated that 10% had an “indeterminate” paternity, I’d first look closely at my test. I suppose, you could try to do animal studies to try to validate the test, since you could control the parenting, however, I don’t know how you’d do a control study on humans if you have to assume such a high rate of infidelity.

Second, and more troubling, a 10% “cuckoldry” rate, doesn’t mean that 10% of married women have affairs, *it means that 10% of married women get pregnant while having affairs *. This, in turn, implies that a) these women must have wanted to get pregnant by another man and b) that a high percentage of married women are having affairs since we can’t assume that all, or even most, married women having affairs fall into category a).

By extension, this means that a high percentage of men are having affairs with married women. I don’t believe the non-DNA data supports this. The whole thing sounds very fishy to me.

This is an incorrect supposition. It could mean that many women trick men who are not the father of their children into marrying them. More likely that single women fool around, get pregnant with some guy, then find a good provider who is not the father to support them. This is a better analogy with the nature studies which supposedly support this, IIRC with birds. The theory is that they choose separately a good gene donor and a good provider.

Good Point!

Of course, there are some limits on this, the most obvious being that this possibility would only apply to births within the first nine months of marriage. If the future husband were to be fooled, the mother would also have to be dating both men simultaneously. It would be interesting to see a study breaking down “indeterminate paternity” by length of marriage.

My general observation still stands, though. What’s the error rate on the paternity test and how do we know?

I have read, several times but have no cites, that for some biological reason a woman is more likely to get pregnant with a different man each time. I don’t know if her body builds up a resistance to the sperm of the first father or what.

The only biological advantage to this would be the more different fathers to her children, the more mixed the gene pool, and the more males around to support her.

How easy is it and how much does it cost to do paternity DNA testing?