Marriages can end for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, children are sometimes to blame. In many cases, the stress involved with caring for children causes marriages to fail. A divorce is likely to occur if the child requires significant care due to a long-term medical condition, such as autism.
Autism is a developmental disorder that impacts the nervous system. It involves many types of conditions that make it difficult for people to communicate and interact with others. In the United States, one in 36 children have autism. Boys are much more likely to have autism than girls. It is unknown why, but genetic and environmental factors play a role.
Autism typically appears by age 2 or 3. It is characterized by various issues, such as sensory sensitivities, gastrointestinal disorders, sleep disorders, seizures, anxiety, and depression.
Autism impacts not only the children but their families as well. Raising a child with autism places a lot of stress on parents and caregivers. That’s because there are significant demands associated with raising a child with autism and other developmental disorders. Parents deal with increased stress due to their children’s behavior problems, changes in family routines to accommodate children’s needs, struggling to navigate the various services available, and constraints on parents’ time and money.
Caregivers of children with autism tend to experience not only high stress, but anxiety, depression, and reduced quality of life due to the ongoing demands of care. They also experience decreased satisfaction with their marriages, which in turn leads to divorce.
A decades-long study shows that parents of autistic children are more likely to divorce over time. The study followed 108 families of autistic children over the course of more than 30 years. The researchers used various surveys and assessments to collect data on factors such as marital status, the education and race of the parents, and the age of the child at divorce. They also tracked when divorces occurred in these families to see if certain periods carried a higher risk.
By the time a child with autism is 30 years old, the risk of their parents getting a divorce is approximately 36%. During this time, there are two specific time periods in which the risk of divorce is the highest. Nearly 40% of divorces occurred during the first five years after the child’s birth, which makes sense, considering this is the time when a diagnosis of autism is likely to come about. Then, another 25% of divorces happened between the ages of 10 to 15 years. This also makes sense, as the teen and pre-teen years are a difficult time for any child. The issues may be more pronounced for an autistic child who has trouble communicating and expressing themselves.
Also, a trend seems to emerge during the teenage years, with some children developing higher levels of cognitive ability and verbal skills. Ironically, these families experienced an uptick in divorce rates at this time. This is likely because there is more tension in the families at this time. Parents start to realize that the future of their children is unclear. There may be stress about what will happen to the child once they graduate high school and become an adult.
There are other factors associated with a higher risk of divorce. Less education also leads to divorce. Parents who do not have a college education or willingness to learn more about their child’s autism are more likely to get a divorce. The same goes for younger mothers. Younger people are less knowledgeable and experienced about autism and life in general.
Racial differences were also noted. Mothers of color with lower education faced the highest divorce risk. If the child had siblings with autism, that influenced divorce risk as well, especially as the child became a teen.
The divorce rates for parents of autistic children could not be compared to average divorce rates for different states, since these are hard to determine. However, most of the divorces occurred when the children were young (under the age of 5), which is normal for parents of children without autism or developmental disabilities.
The study showed that parents who had two autistic children tended to stay together. If they did divorce, they did so when the children were school-age. Divorces were more common in families who had fewer resources, but fortunately, this did not affect the children in terms of receiving treatment for autism.
This research provides valuable insights into how parents of autistic children struggle with their marriages. However, it should be noted that it focused on a specific cohort from the early 1990s. That was 30 years ago, so there have been significant changes in autism diagnosis as well as increased awareness since then. These factors would likely affect how families experience autism today.
Nevertheless, this study highlights the importance of understanding the unique challenges that families of autistic children face. It can help provide better healthcare, tailoring support services accordingly.
Seek Legal Help
Autism can range from mild to severe in nature. The effects can be wide-ranging, causing marriages to fail due to the stress.
Is the stress of dealing with an autistic child causing marital issues? Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you get the legal support you need during this time. We have 30+ years of experience dealing with divorce issues. Schedule a consultation with our office today by filling out the online form or calling (954) 346-6464.