On one hand, it's 100% obvious to anyone unbiased that sometimes an answer to the parenting problem (the "why", at least) is "because the child is a child of a single parent".

  • Both as a scientific finding (e.g. cited here, here, here - I picked out all 3 specifically since they are left/liberal, and thefore unlikely to suffer from political bias that a right wing source might be accused on the topic)

  • As well as (on-topic and valid from this site's perspective), my own personal experience as a parent. You can barely deal and keep up as a married parent. And I see plenty of examples of unruly, poorly behaved children of single parents, clearly enough to be a noticeable trend (and, should someone say "plural of anecdote is not data" or "correlation!= causation", see the research conclusions in the bullet above this one)

On the other hand, I'm worried that posting a factual, valid answer rooted in this would be met with heavy hostility at best, and moderated out at worst (including suspension), either because people assume that "be nice" policy means "fully support and validate everyone's lifestyle choice, even when science says otherwise"; or because they are personally invested in the concept that single parenthood is a perfectly fine choice due to personal or ideological reasons.

As such, I'd like some sort of policy guideline on answers which are rooted in the "being a single parents may cause parenting downsides" idea.

  • 2
    I don't think it's "100% obvious". Your scientific findings are links to articles, not the studies themselves. Do the studies attempt to control for socioeconomic status? There's a big gap between these observations of correlations and "factual" answers. I also don't understand how you can claim a left-wing article wouldn't have bias, when a right-wing article would, when a site that's either-or would have a bias of some sort. It would be better to choose a neutral source, such as the studies themselves.
    – user11394
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 7:12
  • I agree with @CreationEdge's suggestion of citing studies rather than an article about studies; regardless of political affiliation, there's going to be spin and simplification that can lead to more heightened emotions.
    – Acire
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 11:18
  • 1
    @CreationEdge - because left wing typically has a bias to be more positive about single parenthood. If they are likely (not guaranteed, of course) to have a bias in the article, it'd be in the opposite direction - to oppose the studies' conclusion and prove them wrong or dismiss them. (Similarly to how I would expect an article opposing military expenditures on a conservative source to be less likely to be biased towards exaggregating the claims in the article - such an exaggregation would be unlikely from a souce biased in the opposite direction)
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 18:01
  • @Erica - I thought that I was posting a question on Parenting Meta, not an answer on Skeptics.SE :) If you disagree with the premise of those articles, that'd make for a good question on Skeptics, so people can nitpick the claim and the studies with rigour.
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 18:07
  • @user3143 Bias is bias. They're going to spin it for however gets them pageviews. You present your question as if you have facts of the matter, but I haven't seen any facts. I think any possible hostility you might face would be rooted in your presentation of opinion as facts when the science isn't conclusive. Studies show a correlation, and maybe suggest a causation, but they are not definitive. I think it's certainly possible to make strong arguments with the information you provide, but you've got to have a much better presentation.
    – user11394
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 18:09
  • @CreationEdge - uh. No. If a source has bias, they are extremely unlikely to go against that bias even to get pageviews (which is, basically, how Fox News made all their money - because people biased left at pre-Fox news sources wouldn't produce content that disagreed with their biases, leaving ~50% of the coutry as an untapped source of eyeballs). Also, some are more "serious" sources like American Prospect, which is not billed as entertainment and this wouldn't consider getting pageviews as the main goal. Do you think HuffPost would post an anti-Obama article just to get rightwing pageviews?
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 18:12
  • @user3143 You're missing the point. Bias in either way is going to distort the findings of the study and interpret them for their own purpose. I don't give a darn about whatever political malarkey is going on, or how you want to stereotype political affiliation. If you want to present facts you don't cite editorials and fluff articles, you cite actual scientific studies findings.
    – user11394
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 18:16
  • @user3143 We don't have the same rules about going to the source study as Skeptics, but the original research would generally be a better choice.
    – Acire
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 18:28
  • @CreationEdge - and when I write an answer for skeptics.SE I would research the original studies. Which I'm patently not seeing the point in when I'm posting a question on Parents.SE meta. If you find yourself skeptical of the article's claims, you know where to ask :)
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 19:37
  • I'm not concerned about the veracity of the claims of the articles. I'm coaching you on how your presentation of them as facts is likely what's going to cause contention. You presume it would because the information is negative, but I think it's more likely people would take issue with your claims of it being a "factual" answer. Pick any topic you want: if you're going to take a negative stance on a subject that you some people don't want to hear, but you want people to listen to you, then you shouldn't dress your opinion that aggregates other opinions as fact.
    – user11394
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 20:00
  • It's one thing to say "Science suggests", and quite another to say, "Here's the truth". People will respond to those quite differently. Assertions of facts or truths can be met with knee-jerk reactions against the author.
    – user11394
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 20:02
  • Is this about socks?
    – DanBeale
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 21:33

2 Answers 2


There are a number of ways that one might become a single parent.

  • A woman has a baby through artificial insemination.
  • A woman has a one-night stand and has a baby.
  • A woman gets raped and has a baby.
  • A committed couple has a baby, and then:
    • one parent dies.
    • one parent leaves the family.
    • the relationship degrades and the parents split up.
    • one parent leaves because of an abusive and dangerous partner.
    • one parent moves far away to get a job. (Maybe not technically single, but effectively so.)

And there are probably others. If the situation that led to single parenthood is not explicitly clear, I recommend being very, very careful in how information is phrased. If my spouse died and then I was helpfully told about how my now-single status increased the chances of delinquency, drug use, teen pregnancy... who exactly is that supposed to be helping?

Regardless of cause, single parenthood is rarely a status that can be quickly and easily changed. While it may be factually accurate to point out the advantages of having two parents, the relevance to the question is a critical factor. If somebody asks about potential downsides to being a single parent, by all means provide statistics and research. If somebody mentions in passing that they're a single parent and their child is exhibiting some sort of concerning behavior, focusing exclusively on the parent's single status doesn't answer the question that was asked. (So it's violating topicality as well as "be nice", really.)

Avoid blunt or judgmental phrasing. Even though you're factually in the right, it isn't nice to say something like "it's just a fact that parents of single children are less likely to succeed! face reality! wake up!" It simply isn't constructive. From how to answer:

The answer can be “don’t do that”, but it should also include “try this instead”

That doesn't mean the answer should be "try having a romantic partner instead", but perhaps "find a godparent or aunt/uncle who can be a strong adult figure" (or something). Can the statistical downsides (and the difficulties that any single parent are probably already more than familiar with!) also be balanced with research on resources for single parents, suggestions for how to find support, or even just acknowledgment that they're probably doing the best they can in a tough situation?

  • 1
    Hey, no fair stealing my own ideas!!! :) (see #1 here)
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:13
  • "If somebody mentions in passing that they're a single parent and their child is exhibiting some sort of concerning behavior, focusing on the parent's single status doesn't answer the question that was asked" - this is the part that I find ambiguous. No, you can't 100% certainly blame single parenthood for any concerning behavior. But yes, there's a chance that it IS a contributing - if not a defining - factor...
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:22
  • ... A child MAY act out for a # of reasons... but a 3 year old with freshly divorced parents might very likely be acting out because of said divorce - if for no other reason, because such a drastic change is a psychological shock. And a 15 year old with no father figure would very likely exibit poor behavior due to issues with lack of a second parent (if for no other reason, for lack of parental attention which is hard to get even with 2 working parents). So wouldn't that be on topic then?
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:24
  • I fully agree that this has to be handled in a sensitive way (+1 for the first part - clearly framing it as a "it's your fault" is a bad approach for a number of reasons). But saying "if a single parenthood wasn't the explicit thrust of the question, you can't use it in an answer because it's off topic" seems to limit the correct and useful answers - what if the child's problems ARE due to single parenthood yet nobody dares say it to the OP, thus giving them answers that are practically useless despite being "nice"?
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:28
  • I think in each case, you'd want to focus the issue a little more. It would be on topic to note that misbehavior is often seen when a family has been recently disrupted, or that a missing father figure can contribute to a teenage boy's behavior, sure. But that information alone doesn't really answer their question, it just explains it. Typically people come here for solutions. "Your child has more tantrums because of your divorce" may be eminently relevant, but absent of any further information it really isn't any more practically useful than a purely nice and sympathetic fluff answer.
    – Acire
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:31
  • If a divorce is indeed the issue, the only practically useful answer - e.g. one which, if followed, would help the child - I can think of "give the kid a therapy, or get back together with the father".
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:34
  • I meant to say "focusing exclusively on the parent's single status", and have clarified above.
    – Acire
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:34
  • Thanks! Much better! (sometimes a single word edit is all that's needed). I'll mark this answer as accepted, but really I am accepting a union of both of yours and @anon's answers since they are both good and are complementary of each other
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:35
  • I was actually pretty surprised to see I'd left it out. This is why I shouldn't try to write answers on meta while cooking :)
    – Acire
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:37

I'm worried that posting a factual, valid answer rooted in this would be met with heavy hostility at best, and moderated out at worst (including suspension), either because people assume that "be nice" policy means "fully support and validate everyone's lifestyle choice, even when science says otherwise"...

I don't think you fully understand the role of moderators. We are not thought police. We don't suspend people with whom we don't agree. In fact, that would be a very good reason to be immediately relieved of being a moderator. Our role is mostly about keeping the site free of spam, offensive comments, acting on flags users raise, facilitate discussion (like this one), and try to implement the decisions made here by the community and by SE.

You might be met with hostility, but per the SE's guidelines, what you should be met with - if you post an answer backed up by studies in a non-offensive manner - is upvotes and/or downvotes and/or comments asking for clarification of certain points. I believe a part of my job as a moderator is to delete offensive or overtly hostile remarks toward you. Answers that are useful and well supported should get upvotes. Not everybody votes with only that in mind, however.

So the answer I would give is that there are no policies or rules about giving potentially unpopular answers. I've given them myself before I became a moderator (and maybe since?). Do feel free to give opposing answers. But remember to be nice.

  • 1. While I definitely appreciate your line of thought and intent; in my experience, enough "offensive" flags cause moderators to take action whether they intend to be thought police or not. Posting something like this can very easily be spun as "offensive", and likely will be - people of certain views tend to spin any critique of single parenting as sexist or even racist. P.S. A lot more innocuous things were handled as "offensive" by SE - e.g. if you didn't see it back then, an infamous "friendzone" question on failed Relationships.SE was moderated by SE team in a very thought-police way)
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:05
  • 2. FYI - it may not have come out as clear as intended, but the question I asked was 2-fold, one was what the hard-line rules are; another angle was "how do I post such an answer to be as much within site guidelines and spirit as possible". Your answer addressed the former, and I guess Erica's the latter. :)
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:06
  • @user3143 - no, I am unfamiliar with that question (though you've piqued my interest!) I still disagree, though, with you about offensive. SE does have guidelines on what constitutes offensive, which does not equate to "offends someone whose opinion is different." Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:13
  • the hypothetical situation is: you get 5-10 flags (on Hot Network question) that all say an answer is "sexist", "racist" etc... - the articles I linked above explicitly mention that as a typical reaction to viewing single parenthood as a possible source of problems) - would you be enough of an expert on the topic to be able to authoritatively say "no this isn't sexist"? Because if an answer is sexist, it is your job as a moderator to intervene. What if some of the complainers are on SE staff?
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:17
  • @user3143 - the last question is one I can't disagree with. I did, though, say I would remove what I felt was offensive. Which sometimes does not agree with popular opinion. Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:21
  • 1
    I wouldn't give SE staff complaints significantly more attention than a general user's complaint. For one thing, it's not screamingly obvious who raises a flag (the information is there, but the flag content is more obtrusive); for another, I don't know who most of them are :P
    – Acire
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:22
  • 1
    I marked the other answer as accepted. However, this answer gets an imaginary second accept mark, since it's also very good and addresses the other side of the question well.
    – user3143
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 1:37

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