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Couples With Autistic Children More Likely To Divorce

Ask any family attorney in Pasadena and they'll tell you that the stress of raising a child is enough to drive many couples to divorce. In fact, many studies have shown that the risk of divorce is the highest when children are young, though the risk lessens as the kids grow into the more self- sufficient teenage years. Now a new study finds that couples raising children who suffer from autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are twice more likely to divorce than parents of children without ASD.

Researchers who conducted the Adolescents and Adults with Autism study examined nearly 400 families with autistic children and compared them to families with children without the disorder. The study was prompted after decades of parents of children with ASD were told that the risk of divorce was as high as 80 percent. To find out if this is true, the researchers matched families based on the age, sex and birth order of the child with ASD. Facts like age, education and ethnicity of the birth mother also were used in the matching process.

While not the rumored 80 percent, the researchers did find that couples raising a child or children with ASD were extremely high: about 23.5 percent, nearly double the 14 percent found in the non-ASD homes. The risk got even higher for couples with one or more siblings in addition to the child with ASD. While the findings appear bleak, the researchers were quick to note that more than 75 percent of the marriages survive.

"It should be reassuring for parents to know that most marriages survive and thus their marriage is not destined for divorce as is often incorrectly presented in the media," the researchers said.

In addition, the researchers noted that couples with a child with ASD should seek the help of a counselor or therapist to create ways to make the diagnosis and treatment easier on the family.

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