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Parents of Children With Autism More Likely to Divorce

Last Updated: August 26, 2010.

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder are more likely to divorce than parents of children who do not have the disorder, and the risk of divorce stays high as the child advances through childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, according to research published in the August issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

THURSDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to divorce than parents of children who do not have the disorder, and the risk of divorce stays high as the child advances through childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, according to research published in the August issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

Sigan L. Hartley, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and colleagues looked at the timing and occurrence of divorce in 391 parents of children with ASD and in a matched sample of parents of healthy children.

The researchers found that divorce was more common in parents of children with ASD than in the control group (23.5 versus 13.8 percent) and that the divorce rate stayed high as the child progressed to adulthood, while the divorce rate fell in the control group after their children reached about 8 years of age. Positive predictors for divorce in parents of children with ASD included younger maternal age at the time of birth and the child with ASD being born later in the birth order.

"[These] findings have important implications for enhancing services for families of children with an ASD. Service providers should be educated about the heightened risk and timing of divorce in families of children [with] an ASD," the authors write.

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