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This Changes Everything We Knew About Special Needs Parents and Divorce

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It’s an (old) statistic every parent hears when their child gets a developmental disability diagnosis: 80 percent. As in, parents of children with developmental disabilities have an 80 percent chance of getting divorced (compared to the average 40-50 percent chance of divorce in the U.S.) A new study is challenging that number in a big way.

Parents of kids with developmental disabilities are no more likely to get divorced than parents of “typical” children, according to findings in this month’s American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. What’s more — while having more children increases the likelihood of divorce in “typical” families, the same isn’t true for families with a child with special needs.

With data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, a long-term study of a random sample of 10,317 men and women who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957, researchers compared the experiences of 190 parents with a child with developmental disabilities to more than 7,250 parents of children without disabilities.

Both parents with and without a child with a developmental disability showed a roughly 1-in-5 chance of divorce. Parents with one typically-developing child increased their chance of divorce when having a second child, but when parents of a child with a developmental disability had a second child, that increase didn’t happen.

“(The findings) suggest that other children in the family may be a vital support system for parents coping with the care of a child with a developmental disability,” said Eun Ha Namkung, who led the study.

h/t Disability Scoop

Originally published: November 4, 2015
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