I have a blog in WordPress. I have multiple categories. I want to use a specific layout for all posts under a category and all of its sub categories.

Example : My categories organized as bellow.

  1. Guide(parent category)

    1.1 Electical

    1.1.1 TV

    1.1.2 Radio

    1.2 Plumbing

    1.3 Home Repair

    1.3.1 Kitchen

    1.3.2 Bathroom


You can do that with single_template filter. First you will need to check if a post belongs to a top level category. So here is the function.

// custom single template for specific category
function wpse_custom_category_single_template( $single_template ) {

    global $post;

    // get all categories of current post
    $categories = get_the_category( $post->ID );
    $top_categories = array();

    // get top level categories
    foreach( $categories as $cat ) {
        if ( $cat->parent != 0 ) {
            $top_categories[] = $cat->parent;
        } else {
            $top_categories[] = $cat->term_id;

    // check if specific category exists in array
    if ( in_array( '8', $top_categories ) ) {
        if ( file_exists( get_template_directory() . '/single-custom.php' ) ) return get_template_directory() . '/single-custom.php';

    return $single_template;


add_filter( 'single_template', 'wpse_custom_category_single_template' );

In similar situation usually people check for parent category with $categories[0]->category_parent;, which is right but only works if you have assigned one category to each post. If you have 2 and more categories then this solution will always work.

| improve this answer | |
  • This will only work for the 1st level child terms and not for 2nd or 3 level children. Had something similar but deleted it after rereading the OP – Pieter Goosen Jun 18 '15 at 8:17
  • Oh. Then we will have to run nested loops. Kind of resource exhausting. I think he should use a better solution like use a custom field etc. – Robert hue Jun 18 '15 at 8:32
  • Custom fields is a really good option here if the OP wants to take that route. I have tried in my answer to keep things down to the minimum, but it will still be a bit hard on db calls :-) – Pieter Goosen Jun 18 '15 at 8:38
  • This code works fine. – Bikram Pahi Jun 18 '15 at 9:33
  • Just as a note, this seems like a good case for get_ancestors() - simple example: $ancestors_arr = get_ancestors( get_the_ID(), 'category' ); $ancestors_rev = array_reverse( $ancestors_arr ); $top_most_parent = $ancestors_rev[0]; if ( $top_most_parent == 123 ) {} – Nicolai Jun 18 '15 at 11:00


NOTE If you need only the parent and first level child terms, the answer from @Roberthue should work great. If you need all level child terms, then my solution should work)

I have updated my code to be more effecient.

  • Run get_ancestors() only if we cannot find the parent term or its direct children

  • Stop the execution of the foreach loop immediately when we find our parent term from the get_ancestor function

  • Broke my checks up into smaller pieces and immediately stop execution when my checks return true


By default, there is no option to set a specific template for posts from a specific category. This said, it doesn't mean it can't be done. To achieve this, you need to use the single_template filter to set your custom single template page to posts with a specific set of categories.

You can try something like the following: (CAVEAT: The code is untested and needs at least PHP 5.3)

add_filter( 'single_template', function ( $template ) 
    // Get the current queried post id
    $current_post = get_queried_object_id();

    // Get the post terms. Change category to the correct taxonomy name if your post terms is from a custom taxonomy
    $terms = wp_get_post_terms( $current_post, 'category' );

    // Check if we have terms and we don't have an error. If we do, return default single template
    if ( !$terms || is_wp_error( $terms ) )
        return $template;

    // Check if our custom template exists before going through all the trouble to find out terms
    $new_template = locate_template( 'single-custom.php' );
    if ( !$new_template ) 
        return $template;

    // Get al the term ids in an array and check if we can find our parent term
    $term_ids = wp_list_pluck( $terms, 'term_id' );
    if ( in_array( 10, $term_ids ) )
        return $template = $new_template;

    // Get all the parent ids in an array and look for our parent term if we could not find it using term ids
    $parent_ids = wp_list_pluck( $terms, 'parent' );
    if ( in_array( 10, $parent_ids ) )
        return $template = $new_template;

    // If we cannot find the parent or direct children, lets look for lower level children
    $bool = false;
    foreach ( $term_ids as $term ) {
        // Use get_ancestors and check if we can find our parent term id
        if ( in_array( 10, get_ancestors( $term, 'category' ) ) ) {
            $bool = true;
            // If we found our parent, stop execution of our foreach loop

    // If $bool is true, return our custom single template
    if ( $bool )
        return $template = $new_template;

    // If all our conditions failed, return the default single template
    return $template;


The above code is now tested and working. Fixed a couple of small bugs :-)

| improve this answer | |
  • Post updated. Had a couple of bugs and syntax errors. :-) – Pieter Goosen Jun 18 '15 at 17:12

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