Illegitimate children are discriminated against under the law and in social attitudes. Acts of discrimination include: the denial of inheritance or of filiation; legal impediments to marriage; an unequal distribution of social services on account of inferior status or lack of filiation; discrimination in education. This results in lack of social mobility and may also result in juvenile delinquency and emotional stress.
In Roman times, bastards were classified as 'nothi' and were entitled to support from their father but not to inheritance. Under Germanic law, only children born of parents of the same social rank were legitimate. Under English common law, parental rights and duties did not apply to illegitimate children who were regarded as the 'sons of no one'. Until the 16th century in England the parish maintained such children but an act of 1576 laid the responsibility on the parents.
In most countries children born out of wedlock do not have the same rights as legitimate children, despite the trend in favour of greater equality between them. As a rule, it is only when they have been legitimated that illegitimate children have the same rights and obligations as the children born of the marriage. If, on the other hand, they have merely been recognized by the father, although entitled to be fed and brought up at their father's expense, they cannot claim the same rights as legitimate children, particularly in the matter of inheritance. However, they may, in certain cases, apply to the putative father for a maintenance and education allowance. In Belgium, for example, illegitimate children can exercise this right up to eighteen years of age, in Finland up to seventeen and in Guyana up to sixteen.