What is a DNA Test Kit?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A DNA test kit can be used at home to determine the paternity of a child, the sex of an unborn baby, or the presence of certain genetic factors, which might predispose one for certain diseases. In the greatest number of cases, a DNA test kit is used to establish paternity.

A DNA test kit may be used to determine the paternity of a child.
A DNA test kit may be used to determine the paternity of a child.

Generally, DNA is obtained by collecting a tiny amount of skin tissue and saliva from the inside of the cheek. Envelopes are usually included which need to be labeled to indicate the owner of each sample. The test is quite simple, and when sent to a reputable lab, extremely accurate.

Evaluating cheek swabs may be helpful in determining a person's ancestors.
Evaluating cheek swabs may be helpful in determining a person's ancestors.

The lab then determines genetic factors, which either include or exclude relationship. In cases where paternity needs to be established, most US courts may allow DNA evidence from a DNA test kit if all parties participated willingly in the testing. If such testing does not exist, the court usually obtains information not from a home DNA test kit, but from a lab where results can be assured.

Another form of DNA test kit can be used to determine ancestry. In these cases, people usually need a DNA test kit that can test the hair of someone deceased. Since hair rings and locks of hair were once considered heirlooms, people often inherit them. Testing the hair of a deceased person, while evaluating cheek swabs of the living person, can establish relationship, and may be helpful in determining ancestors if one is an avid genealogist.

Relationship with ancestors is often difficult to determine because no remains of the person are available for testing. Testing might require exhumation, which is a significant consideration and may be disallowed by other family members or by one’s religious beliefs. In rare cases, exhumation may result in establishing inheritance to wealth by establishing a degree of relationship. Usually, because a court needs to verify documentation when awarding someone with an inheritance, a recognized lab and not a DNA test kit is used.

In recent trends, expectant mothers can use a DNA test kit to find out the sex of their child, or to determine if they are carrying multiple children. Usually, the expectant mother must provide a small blood sample, and must be at least a couple of months pregnant for DNA testing of this nature to be reliable.

A DNA test kit can be purchased on a number of Internet sites and possibly through local doctors or labs. On the Internet, most kits cost, with testing, about 250 US Dollars (USD). Some kits are available for half that price, but if one is trying to legally establish paternity, the expense may not be justifiable if a court will require one to repeat the testing. In all cases, samples can be corrupted by mislabeling, by deliberately including the wrong sample, or by simple mistakes. DNA lab tests are the more accurate methods, unless one is simply attempting to address idle curiosity.

DNA lab tests are the most accurate.
DNA lab tests are the most accurate.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


My friend adopted a dog from the shelter and had no idea what breed he was. Apparently there is DNA test kits for dogs too. I couldn't believe it but it's true. He sent in a sample from inside of his cheek, just as it is done with humans. The results came back and had information on the different breeds found. You could see what the dog's parents, grandparents and great grandparents were.

I don't know if I would get a DNA test for myself. But I would definitely get it if I had a dog of uncertain breed. It's so cool!


I used a mail-in DNA test because I wanted to find out if I had any genetic mutations. I heard that such mutations can be interpreted to figure out if there will be certain health problems in the future.

Well, I don't know what I got out of the DNA test results. It told me about something unusual with a gene. But I looked into it and found out that scientists haven't figured out what that gene does yet.

It's nice that we are able to find out about our DNA but science doesn't seem to have advanced enough where we can read into our future health. Maybe that will happen in the future, but for now, I don't see too much benefit in knowing my DNA.


You can actually use a DNA test kit to find out your first ancestors who arrived in America. There are even forums where people share information about their results and find distant relatives. I haven't tried it but I'm thinking about it. It's so interesting to know about your family, who they were, where they were living. I can't even imagine how exciting it would be to find a relative.

Post your comments
Forgot password?