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Is that right? Child's autism raises parents' divorce risk?

You may have heard that parents of kids with an autism spectrum disorder -- ASD -- have an 80-percent divorce rate.


That number's been tossed around a lot, adding an extra level of apprehension to the already stressful experience of a child's being diagnosed with a worrisome disorder.

But it turns out that alarming number may have been pulled from a hat. A study presented last week at the annual International Meeting for Autism Research by researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore took a hard look at existing data and found nothing to support that statistic.

In fact, the research showed, 64 percent of children with an ASD were part of families with two married biological or adoptive parents, compared with 65 percent of children who do not have an ASD.

Those figures came from the researchers' analysis of data regarding 77,911 children ages 3 to 17 from the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health.

An estimated 1 in 110 U.S. children have an ASD.

Anecdotally, it seems logical that the stress of dealing with a child's ASD could certainly strain a marriage. But perhaps working together as a team to accommodate such a child's needs can also strengthen a marriage.

Do you have a child with ASD? How has it affected your marriage?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  May 28, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Autism , Chronic Conditions , Family Health , Is That Right? , Neurological disorders  
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Comments

I have not yet met a couple who have a child on the autism spectrum whose marriage was strengthened by it. The pressures behind it appear to me to universally make their lives less carefree and more stressed.

Posted by: bbcrock | May 29, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

The study includes adoptive parents. Wouldn't that include parents that adopt the special needs kids for the state money that comes every month? I think this study is skewed.

Posted by: gt0571a | May 29, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

The study may have disproved the numbers on the divorce rate, but I wonder if people know how many couples live as room mates. My husband and I have a 16 year old daughter on the high end of the spectrum, and our marriage disintegrated years ago. We stay together out of cost, and for our daughter's sense of security and stability, not to mention we couldn't afford to maintain two households. This is a lifelong disability for our daughter and a prison sentence for us, for the rest of our lives.

Posted by: jeiken | May 29, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I have to echo the sentiments of jeiken. Our son is high-end, but the extra burdens and challenges presented to us by his condition are indeed debilitating. This has been countervailed by the belief any separation would only make these tasks more difficult, but long ago ours became a union for survival rather than a marriage.

Posted by: threedy | May 29, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure you can find a study of the divorce rate of parents with disabled children vs. parents without disabled children. I bet the stress of dealing with the disability causes more divorces, but let's see the numbers.

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | May 29, 2010 11:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure you can find a study of the divorce rate of parents with disabled children vs. parents without disabled children. I bet the stress of dealing with the disability causes more divorces, but let's see the numbers.

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | May 29, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

I don't buy the 80% number. Death of a child is 90% and having an Autie is not THAT bad. For my part, we have 4 year old twins. Secondo is on the spectrum; Primo has developmental delays (social, peer interactions). Having kids stressed our relationship more than having a child with autism. It scares us, but has led to us working together when dealing with the outer world.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | May 31, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

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