The Pearson Protocol Analysis – Single Mothers and Dating Failures

I have tried to summarize the writings of Ben Pearson, a PhD graduate in Social Science at Princeton University who wrote in his 1989 Pearson Protocol thesis that there are many interesting unexplored considerations for dating in a modern society. While little information remains about the writer himself, some of his work lives on through his Pearson Protocol, which was published for peer review in the same year it was written and I was lucky enough to recently stumble across at The Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library at Princeton University. The original peer reviewers have scant recollection of the material, but noted that many of its findings were, at the time,  categorized as “junk science”. I have attempted to give this hidden work some light of day for fresh eyes.

mothers-with-strollersIn his thesis, Pearson examines societal values and the way they prioritize assets and “things” over life experiences and personal character. Pearson determines that this can have a profound affect on mating decisions. Although some of Pearson’s findings can appear a little dated now that we are in the 21st century, some of his sociological reasonings may still ring true. One of those findings was that the heterosexual single mother of school age children often dates prospective partners for all the wrong reasons and thus can face a very high failure rate in terms of finding a successful mate. Pearson then goes on to indicate that the failure is very often by design, even though it may often be a subconscious choice for the woman. If all the social outliers and external factors (like lack of money, extended family pressure, lack of home, physical security, financial security, partner bereavement etc.) are removed, it appears that the single mother doesn’t actually want a mate at all, but she is still buying the lottery ticket, because she knows she will still need a mate in the future when her child leaves the home, even if she is not thinking about it now. This means that she will more than likely be a dating failure, but will often use her children as the reason why men are not interested in her. This is the common crutch that Pearson’s thesis attempts to dispel.

Single Mother’s and Their Dating Motivations According to The Pearson Protocol

Two single mothers with childrenPearson went on in his Pearson Protocol study to say that single women of school age children did not date with the normal order of the primary accepted societal norms like security, income, protection or stability. Not even love or sexual gratification made it into the top spot. The single mother’s motivations to date a man had a curious order that could not be explained by the removal of the outliers and the external factors. He determined that this section of the societal demographic dated single men primarily for insurance against being alone long-term. The subjects may have subconsciously realized that even they didn’t need a man now, but soon, when their children would leave the home to go to college or have their own lives outside the home, the women would in fact be single and alone. By that time the women may have lost their looks and finding a man at that age would be more  difficult. Throughout Pearson’s study this element kept showing up despite the controlled questions and weighted Q&A that the subjects in his thesis were challenged with. Pearson went on to say that although women said they wanted to be in a relationship, they really didn’t really want or need to be in one as they were already getting their needs met. The come to a realization that they would, one day, be single and alone and would need the love and companionship of another (which they could get unconditionally from their children now) would no longer be available to them. The empty nest syndrome for the single parent is even more alarming than it is for a nuclear family. It is that situation that the single mother is looking to avoid, whether she consciously admits to it or not.

High Failure in Dating Success Rate

Older mother reading to childThe Pearson Protocol made the specific point that mothers in the US (statistically regardless of whether they had been previously married or not) who had school-age children were not really able to date very successfully because they were commonly emotionally unavailable. This element lead to the most common reason for dating failure. In his thesis, he was able to show that the dating failure rate in this subset was astronomically high and that the reason behind this in the most extreme cases was because the women were often both physically and emotionally not open to a new love interest,  despite themselves being single and giving off the appearance and desire of actually needing a mate.

It appeared in the Pearson Protocol that a number of the other external factors could be at play, but with these factors removed, there still remained the key element that his thesis discovered. Single mothers just don’t need men. But they convince themselves they do.

More Children Can Lead to Worse Dating Success, But For Unexpected Reasons

young family bondingThe Pearson Protocol went on to show that the more children the single parent has, the more likely they were to fail in a new relationship. Obviously there were many outliers and external factors in this consideration but the general consensus of his sample gave the impression that the sweet spot of failure, to coin a phrase, was children of 3 to 10 years of age. This is the very worst time for a single mother to attempt to date prospective partners.  On the surface one would imagine that the failure is due to the woman being less attractive to the male because of the more children she has, but the science indicates that when all the external factors are removed, this is not a consideration in the process, it is more about the females emotional (and sometimes physical) availability. Some men in the study complained that their partner was 100% about their children and 0% about their relationship. It is as if the women cannot control themselves and this behavior is preordained in our DNA.
The Pearson Protocol thesis examined the fact that it may not be the single woman at fault, she may in fact be last attractive to new mate, but after research with question-and-answer panels with the new potential mates, it became clear that the issue wasn’t how they felt about the single woman, it was in fact her lack of emotional and physical availability being the biggest hurdle. Pearson went on to ask, why does a single woman with school-age children actually require a partner? His answer was that the reason a single mother looks for a new partner is less about immediate insurance, and more about the realization that at some point the child or children will be leaving the home that she has created. and she will be single and older and therefore less likely to find a mate.

Difference in Data between Single Mothers and Single Fathers

closeup shot of young man and woman making heart shape with hand. loving couple The numbers between the two types of parents could not be more different. Where women, who had no external factors encroaching on their dating decision process, could subconsciously live without a man and just “pretended to themselves” to go through the process to satisfy their own conscious self, men were the complete opposite. In fact, men still needed women for love and companionship, despite having already their children and the external factors being removed. Many in the scientific community put this down to a nurture motivator, that is strong in women, stronger that is than the partner motivator. In men its the opposite. Men need a partner more than they need children, not that anyone is asking them to decide between the two.

Do Mothers Love Their Children More Than Fathers Do?

Some contend that the reason behind all of this points to the myth/fact the mothers may love their children more than fathers. Pearson protocol thesis did not examine this statement, but is an interesting subject matter for further study. It may be that men just require more love overall than women and the love from children is not enough, tipping the balance for men that means that they need love from both children and women, the love of the child not being enough for them. It could also be that that physical bonds between mother and child are far stronger than anything the male could ever have and their exists a whole in men that women are able to fill.

Can The Modern Childless Women Suffer From The Pearson Protocol?

mother with four childrenPearson never made this claim inn his original thesis, and it starts to border on junk science, but it occurred to me in my own sociological research during a recent review of the work that the modern childless working woman may be substituting children for her career and could be suffering from the Pearson Protocol. Admittedly its a bit of a stretch, but instead of children being the source of happiness, the woman is attempting to find love and happiness at work, which could be a very dangerous standard, as work is a great deal more fleeting and can end at any time, unlike family that would usually continue, despite setbacks of divorce and bereavement. The modern working woman may still be dating, but she may prioritize work over relationships, and has found that men have provided far less than their own career has, in terms of satisfying her basic needs of love, security and happiness. Now, when I hear a woman say that she “Really loves her job”, I am thinking literally, maybe she really does love her job. It’s a curious statement that, perhaps, no man has ever stated.

Margaret Smithson

Formerly with Avanade (a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft) Ms. Smithson is now following her passion as a freelance business writer and has written for various online and printed publications in the areas of technology and science and their use in modern American business. Her recent focus has been on the tremendous impact of new technologies on the business landscape status-quo of businesses older than 25 years. Many traditional businesses have been forced to adopt new technologies against the grain of their natural development life-cycle, but it is the internet-age businesses, where technology has been an intrinsic part of their organic development, that have flourished the most. Ms Smithson has a BS in Economics from UPENN (1994) and an MBA (2001) from Wharton.