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Study details autism's heavy toll beyond childhood on marriages
Date:8/3/2010

MADISON The 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.

The study, published in the August issue of the Journal of Family Psychology by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Waisman Center, paints a new picture of the prospects of long-term marital success for parents raising a child with autism.

The study is the first to track marital history of parents of adult children with autism. It reveals that, in contrast to previous assumptions, parents do not have a greater risk of divorce when their son or daughter with autism is young. However, as the child with autism grows into adolescence and adulthood, parents are more likely to divorce than are parents of typically developing children. Although findings reveal diminished prospects for a lasting marriage for parents raising a child with autism, the majority of marriages in this study survived.

The study compared the marital fates of 391 couples the 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). The goal of the study was to document the rate and timing of divorce of parents of children with autism, explains Sigan Hartley, a UW-Madison assistant professor of human development and family studies and lead author of the report.

The study revealed 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 seems to be a prolonged vulnerability for divorce in parents of children with autism," says Hartle
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Contact: Sigan Hartley
hartley@waisman.wisc.edu
608-262-8860
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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