NEWS FLASH: Raising a child with special needs causes marital strain

According to a study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Waisman Center, parents of grown children with autism are more likely to divorce than couples with typically developing children, according to new data from a large longitudinal study of families of adolescents and adults with autism.

Uh, oh.

The study, published in the August issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, compared the marital fates of 391 couples,parents of adolescent and adult children with autism, to a sample drawn from another large longitudinal study, the National Survey of Midlife in the United States (MIDUS).

It found that the divorce rate for parents of children with autism mirrors the divorce rate of the parents of children without disabilities until the child reaches 8 years of age. After that, the divorce rate goes down for parents of children without disabilities but remains high for parents of children with autism.

“There is a lifelong profile of challenging behaviors and symptoms associated with autism,”says Sigan Hartley of a UW-Madison, the lead author of the report.

“Few developmental disabilities appear to be more taxing on parents and there is a great need for support services for families when the child is an adolescent and adult.”

The new study compares data from two large longitudinal studies, the Adolescents and Adults with Autism Study, directed by Marsha Mailick Seltzer, a UW-Madison professor of social work and director of the Waisman Center,(and one of my heroes) and MIDUS, directed by UW-Madison psychology professor Carol Ryff. Both studies are funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

“Providing support for couples to help them work on their marriages is an obvious step. If we can get information and support to these families, we hope to be able to support lasting marriages.”


We are still hanging in there.

How about you?

4 Responses to NEWS FLASH: Raising a child with special needs causes marital strain