If You Suck At Being In A Relationship, You’ll Probably Suck At Parenting, Too

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A new study shows if you are successful in romantic relationships, you will be successful at parenting. I call bullshit. I know plenty of single people that are awesome friends and fantastic parents.

I have a hard time believing that just because two grown adults may have made a less-than-perfect choice of picking a life partner, their parenting skills will suffer. “If you can do responsive care-giving, it seems that you can do it across different relationships,” study researcher Abigail Millings of the University of Bristol said in a statement to the Live Science. That does make sense, but isn’t it possible for someone to be crap at romantic relationships, but great at other relationships? I have great, sensitive, responsive friends that just can’t seem to find the right partner. Does this mean their parenting will suffer? I don’t think so.

 Because families are dynamic mixes of relationships, Millings and her colleagues wanted to know if parents’ attachment to each other would affect their parenting styles with their children. Previous research has shown that attachment avoidance and anxiety are linked with more fear about parenting, as well as parenting struggles. An anxiously attached mom or dad might have trouble letting their child explore the world independently, for example. An avoidant parent might come across as cold or distant.

This study seems to speak more to actual personality traits, than how they relate to partners and children. If someone has issues with attachment, avoidance, and anxiety – it seems these issues will permeate all of their relationships, right?

“It might be the case that practicing being sensitive and responsive — for example, by really listening and by really thinking about the other person’s perspective — to our partners will also help us to improve these skills with our kids,” Millings said in the statement.

It’s a harmless study about behavior, personality, and how these traits affect relationships. The way it’s packaged just rubs me the wrong way, because it discounts all single parents and makes unfair assumptions about their parenting skills. With a more than 50% divorce rate, many of us are failing at the “romantic.” The stresses of romantic relationships are very different than those that exist in the parent-child dynamic.

I think being in an imperfect relationship is the rule – not the exception. Studies like these just serve to alienate single parents, and make those parents who have difficulties with romantic relationships feel like double failures.

(photo: andrea michele piacquadio/