Parentage testing is not usually performed in medical pathology laboratories. The primary goal of parentage testing is to identify the biological parent of a given child. It is done to determine an individual’s parent or parents in, for example, cases of adoption or alleged paternity. This determination must be looked at very carefully and must identify the alleged parent with at least 99 per cent certainty.

Many different types of laboratory tests can be done to assess parentage, including examination of red blood cell antigens (blood typing), examination of polymorphic serum protein genes, and assessment of short tandem repeats (see identity testing). The DNA testing techniques used are similar to those used in identity testing for a criminal investigation, that is, extracting DNA from cells and manipulating it in such a way as to be able to examine the unique characteristics of that sample.