Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Divorce and Autism

It’s a persistent urban legend that autism in a child results in divorced parents. As I discussed in my post Divorce, Single Parenting and Autism, Some Data, published 4/30/2009, people quote divorce rates as high as 80 to 90% in families with autistic children, but they never seem  to cite any evidence to back up those claims. When I first heard those numbers, they were so alarming, I did some research of my own and couldn’t come up with any studies showing the 80% divorce rate. Actually, there wasn’t much evidence of any kind out there, other than an Easter Seals study of 1652 families, along with a control group of 917 families. The Easter Seals study showed that families with autistic children were actually less likely to divorce than families without special needs children.

Now there’s a new study from the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute.  The study 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.” The study used a sample size of over 77,000 children. The review article doesn’t specify exactly how many of these 77,000 children were dealing with autism, but at a standard rate of 1 in 100 children, we could expect this study represents about 770 children on the spectrum.
Also, thanks to GRASP for mentioning this study in their monthly newsletter. Every month they publish an array of interesting articles related to autism and Asperger's.