Genes should not define fatherhood. This is wrong for men, and wrong for children. Genes define identity, but that link should be separated from the obligations and rights of parenthood. Specifically, I argue that fatherhood should be defined by doing (action) instead of being (status), with the critical component being acts of nurturing. In this essay I define in more detail this concept of fatherhood and its characteristics; discuss the consequences related to genetic ties; and consider the policy implications of defining fatherhood around nurture when genetic ties can be established for all children. It is critical throughout to remain cognizant of the diversity of fathers and the fluidity of fatherhood. Not all fathers are alike, and fatherhood is not a fixed state.
Nancy E. Dowd, From Genes, Marriage and Money to Nurture: Redefining Fatherhood, 10 Cardozo Women's L.J. 132 (2003), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/647