Vuksa Dragovic’s single-parent statistics: Problems with time, place, context and interpretation

Freepik/@ user16766420

Original article (in Serbian) was published on 31/08/2022

One post caused a lot of negative comments and condemnations on Twitter. The post is the answer to the almost unavoidable topic of recent days, “Why I fight for family values”. User Vuksa Dragovic decided to complete his answer using statistical data: “63% of suicides among young people; 90% running away from home; 85% of children who show behavioral disorders; 80% of rapists; 71% of children who do not finish school; 70% of children in correctional facilities; 80% of young people in prison (…) were raised by a single mother”, he wrote and added that “85% of divorces happen at the initiative of women”.


“From your tweet, as you wrote it, it turns out that single mothers are the cause of almost all children’s problems”, commented one Twitter user, while many others asked Dragovic for the source of this worrying information. The source was soon presented: Dragovic attached an extract from the publication of the Heritage Foundation, an extremely conservative non-governmental organization known for its opposition to abortion and advocacy for diminishing the rights of LGBT+ people (1). However, that publication is not the original source of this questionable data.

Referring to the mentioned “statistics” is problematic on several levels: it does not apply to Serbia in any way, and it no longer applies to the United States of America (to which it is linked) because almost two and a half decades have passed since its publication. Let’s also add that in the publication of the Heritage Foundation, it is stated that the data refer to single-parent families and not specifically to families in which only the mother takes care of the child.

Where do the statistics come from, and are there similar studies in our country?

The statistics used by Dragovic come from the United States Department of Justice publication entitled “What can the federal government do to reduce crime and revitalize communities?”. This publication was published more than 24 years ago, in January 1998, and has nothing to do with Serbia, nor are there any studies in Serbia based on which we could draw similar conclusions. The editors of FakeNews Tragac came to this conclusion after talking with doctors of sociology who, among other things, deal with the sociology of the family.

An extensive study on single-parent families in Serbia, published in 2014, dealt with various aspects of this topic: the dynamics of their origin, social position, family relationships, value orientations… However, even this study does not provide us with data that would be comparable to those from the statistics that Vuksa Dragovic presented.

One of the authors of the mentioned research, a professor at the Department of Sociology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, Dr. Milana Ljubicic, draws attention to the fact that one should be very careful when claims are made that single parenthood is an etiological factor of suicide, delinquency and other behaviors mentioned above.

“We have studies that deal with (i) the sociodemographic characteristics of young people with conspicuous social behavior. The studies are not epidemiological*, so general conclusions cannot be drawn, but there is enough empirical evidence that, for example, the families of juvenile delinquents are more often single-parent families. This by no means means that structural incompleteness – single parenthood caused delinquency”, she states and underlines that “things are not entirely simple”.

Krstic: the data does not speak about single-parent families but the family origin of criminals

Dr. Nemanja Krstic, assistant professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Nis, who, among other things, deals with the sociology of the family, told FakeNews Tragac that a family’s financial status, where it is settled, whether its members have health insurance, do they have access to a school is more important than whether it is a single-parent family.

“When you take data on juvenile delinquency from institutions and relate it to single-parent families, you are making a mistake because the data do not talk about single-parent families but about the family origin of criminals. In other words, the fact that most criminals come from single-parent families does not mean that most single-parent families create criminals”, explains Krstic and adds that “it is well known in sociology that in these cases it is not an inadequate family structure, but rather about the material deprivation of the family, which results in the deviant behavior of its members”.