Having a child with autism doesn’t put stress on parents’ marriage: Study

May 20th, 2010 - 1:39 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 20 (ANI): A new study has debunked the myth that having a child with autism can put stress on the parents’ marriage.

The study by researchers from Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore found that a child’s autism has no effect on the family structure.

Brian Freedman, lead author of the study and clinical director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute, found that 64 percent of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) belong to a family with two married biological or adoptive parents, compared with 65 percent of children who do not have an ASD.

“In the work I’ve done with children with autism, I’ve come across many couples who quote this 80 percent divorce rate to me. They don’t know what the future holds for their child, and feel a sense of hopelessness about the future of their marriage as well - almost like getting a diagnosis of autism and a diagnosis of divorce at the same time,” he said.

Researchers sought to examine the incidence more scientifically. Using data from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health*, they examined a nationally representative sample of 77,911 children, ages 3 to 17.

Freedman said that their studies found that families with autistic children reported more stress than say, mothers with growing children or children who had other disabilities like Down syndrome.

“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 Dr. Freedman. “And as someone who works with a team of health care professionals to treat and provide support for families of children with autism, it’s important for us to make sure our patients’ parents know that, and for our fellow clinicians to provide reliable, evidence-based information about the divorce rate among this population as well.”

“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,” he said. “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.”

Results of the study will be presented in Philadelphia at the International Meeting for Autism Research. (ANI)

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