Marriage, as most people are aware, can be extremely difficult. There are countless challenges and stresses that may arise, which, for many couples, can push a relationship to its breaking point and beyond. Certain factors may seem to increase a couple’s risk of divorce, at least according to popular opinion, but a new long-term study suggests that having a child with disabilities may not present the divorce risk that many think it does.
Collecting the Data
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Waisman Center and compared the divorce rates of couples raising at least one child with a developmental disability to that of couples with typically developing children. Lead author and graduate student Eun Ha Namkung said that the study’s goal was to test the assumption that, "in general, parents of children with disabilities are more likely to experience divorce.” The team analyzed data collected in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, a long-term survey that collected information from more than 10,000 participants over a period of time spanning nearly six decades.
While the researchers recognize that the nature of the longitudinal study created some drawbacks for them—participants were disproportionately white men and women born between 1930 and 1935—the length of the survey provided at least a comprehensive snapshot to be used as a starting point.
Somewhat Surprising Results
The team’s findings yielded some rather interesting points of note. A couple with only typically-developing children saw their likelihood of divorce increase with each successive child. On the other hand, parents of children with developmental disabilities—including autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy—saw no increase to their divorce risk with each additional child.
According to the research, couples with non-disabled children who were able to help care for and support their developmentally disabled siblings may actually realize reduced marital stress. This, in turn, may offset the increasing divorce risk among larger families in which developmental disabilities are not part of the equation.
Overall, the study determined that 22 percent of parents with a child affected by developmental disabilities ultimately divorced in the course of the research. Parents with only typically-developing children divorced at a rate of 20 percent, not really a significant difference.
Divorce and Special Needs Children
As with any divorce-related study, the suggestion of trends or risk factors mean very little to an individual family facing serious marital issues. If you are the parent of a child with developmental disabilities and you considering a divorce, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney for assistance. There are a number of factors to keep in mind throughout the process and the team at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato can help you develop a plan for the future. Call 630-377-7770 for your free consultation today.