Who’s the daddy? Disputed cases of paternity in eighteenth-century Ulster

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This month we have PoP Director Leanne Calvert talking about men and sexuality in the 18th Century.

DNA testing has become the standard method of determining paternity. Daytime television shows, such as ITV’s The Jeremy Kyle Show, regularly include segments that feature disputes and arguments over paternity, usually involving multiple potential fathers. A quick mouth swab, inevitable rows, and a dramatic pause later, the question of ‘Who’s the daddy’ is solved relatively quickly. But how did those in the eighteenth-century determine paternity? In the age before DNA testing (and before daytime television hosts), how did women and men figure out who exactly was the daddy? 

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Perception of intimidation in cases of teen pregnancy

The Research Group on Public Health of the Universidad del Rosario in Bogota, Colombia has studied the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of how teenage girls perceive shame and other intimidation tactics used by school teachers against teens that become pregnant. It is published as open access article in the Revista Medica de Risaralda.

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Problematising Pregnancy in Ireland, 1864-1913

Submitted by Dr Ciara Breathnach, Department of History, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Key words: infant mortality, illegitimacy, institutions


Problematic motherhood in Free State Ireland was routinely conflated with discourses of morality and illegitimacy, this tendency meant that overarching issues of health inequality and associated problems did not receive due consideration.  Indeed, the socio-legal positioning of the family followed the dictates of Roman Catholicism, the majority religion, much to the detriment of the socially disadvantaged. Together with Eunan O’Halpin I have co-written two articles on unknown infant dead, where parentage was unknown (Irish Historical Studies, 38:149,2012) and on the subject of unnamed infant dead, where parents were known to the authorities (Social History, 39:2, 2014) and placed them in wider social contexts. Our analysis of the records of civil registration and coroners’ courts records has led us to the conclusion that dire poverty played a central role in both instances, irrespective of marital status. This research has raised a host of other research questions about general cause of infant death –to include issues such as maternal health status, stillbirth and general ‘failure to thrive’- we quickly realized that we would need a much larger dataset.

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