Life Advice



Ask Amy: DNA test reveals mistaken identity

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I gave birth to a child in the ’70s. I was 16 at the time, and for all these years I thought I knew who my daughter’s biological father was. He was not involved in her life and made it known he did not want to be. I married and my husband adopted her. Our daughter knows all the details.

Yesterday, I found out via a DNA test who her real biological father is. It is not who I thought it was. I had no idea, and I am stunned. This person passed away 10 years ago. I confessed everything to my daughter, right away.

How do I get through this? I have beat myself up for so long over this out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and now I find this out.

What do I say to the other "father," who I have not had contact with in 40 years? Do I say anything? — No Words

Dear No Words: I think it’s important to recognize that you have done so much that is absolutely right. You and your husband raised your daughter. He adopted her. He is her dad. You have always been honest with her regarding her DNA parentage, and you are being honest, now.

It would be wise for you to find a professional counselor to help you and your family navigate through this. Some of the layers of this situation are intensely personal for you, but this also has wider consequences for your husband, and (of course) your daughter.


The National Association of Social Workers has helpful links to databases of social workers and therapists: Check their website at Many professional counselors will connect with you virtually.

You have already been brave about this and have notified your daughter about her DNA parentage. It is hard to know how this will affect her, but you should continue to be truthful and transparent.

Yes, you should contact the person you always assumed was her biological father. I gather that he never financially contributed to your daughter’s care (if he had, it would bring up a further complication), but he could be harboring his own complicated feelings of guilt and sadness about his long-ago rejection. (Rejecting a mistaken-daughter is not appreciably different from rejecting an actual-daughter, but all the same he should be told the truth.)

Your daughter might be interested in connecting with some of her bio-relatives, and when the dust surrounding this settles, I hope you all find peace, love, and resolution regarding the choices you have made in your life.


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