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Divorce rates no higher among parents of children with autism, study finds

May 20, 2010 | 12:42 pm

Having a child with autism can strain even the strongest marriage, but parents of autistic children may be no more likely to divorce than other parents, according to a new study. The study, presented this week at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia, debunks a belief held by some that the divorce rate is higher -- as great as 80% -- among parents with autistic children. Researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore looked at data on 77,911 children age 3 to 17 who were part of the National Survey of Children's Health.

They found that 64% of children with an autism spectrum disorder were part of a family with two married biological or adoptive parents, compared with 65.2% of children who did not have autism. After controlling for children who had a co-diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder, children with autism had a slightly greater chance than children without autism of living with two married parents.

This isn't to say that having an autistic child doesn't cause stress in a marriage. "While there are indeed stressors in parenting a child with autism, it doesn't necessarily result in the family breaking up more often than would occur in another family," said Brian Freedman, lead author of the study, in a new release. Freedman, clinical director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, added, "I would hope this research drives home the importance of providing support to these families, and letting them know that their relationships can survive these stressors. We should continue to provide training for parents so that they can work through the stressors in their relationship to keep their family together and have a successful marriage."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times