Up to two per cent of UK fathers may be the victims of paternity fraud after being tricked into raising another man’s biological child, according to new DNA research from Dr Maarten Larmuseau, a researcher in KU Leuven University’s laboratory of Biodiversity.

While the figure derived, which equates to 1 in 50 British fathers, may seem high, the study actually suggests UK men should breathe a sigh of relief: researchers expected the rate to be almost five times higher.

The study, said that this expectation was born from the high incidence of female infidelity in humans (estimated to be 5–27% for people younger than 30-years old).

“Media and popular scientific literature often claim that many alleged fathers are being cuckolded into raising children who biologically are not their own,” Dr Larmuseau writes in the study, which looked back at  extra-pair paternity (EPP) over recent decades.

“Surprisingly, the estimated rates within human populations are quite low,” Larmuseau continues, “- around one or two per cent.”

Larmuseau and his research team were initially surprised at the lack of hard evidence for EPP, and believed that existing scientific studies – some of which claimed that as high as 10% of fathers were the victims of paternity fraud – were overestimating the issue.

“Reliable data on contemporary populations, that have become available over the last decade mainly as supplementary results of medical studies, don’t support the notion that 1 in 10 people don’t know who their ‘real’ fathers are,” says Dr Larmuseau.

He goes on to say, “By combining genetics and in-depth genealogies, it’s now even possible to look back at the EPP rates in the historical past. Those data suggest that the rates of EPP haven’t changed much over time.”

The study concludes that a possible reason the incidence of paternity fraud is so low is because any potential advantage of cheating in order to have children who are perhaps more genetically gifted is offset for the majority of women by the potential costs – e.g. spousal aggression, divorce, or reduced paternal investment by the social partner and his relatives.

AlphaBiolabs who specialise in DNA paternity testing have seen a marked increase in paternity testing every year for the past five years. It is not just the number of tests being processed, but the high rate of negative results.