Social Science Update: What is the relative risk regarding the timing of divorce in families of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

In 2010, social scientists conducted a study that looked at 391 parents of children with ASD. To qualify for the study, the families had to have a child that was 10 or older at the start of the study with an ASD diagnosis. The study consisted of two to three hour interviews in the home with the parents. The parents also completed phone interviews and written questionnaires.

This study found that the rate of divorce for parents of children with ASD was much higher (23.5%) than parents without a child with the disability (13.8%). For parents without children with ASD the risk of divorce begins to decrease in the child’s late childhood. In contrast, parents of a child with ASD have a higher risk of divorce through adolescence and into the child’s young adulthood.

The rate of divorce for mothers of a child with ASD was higher if the mother was younger when she had the child and when the child was born later in the birth order.

Overall, this study found that 3/4ths of marriages survive when they have a child with ASD. However, the divorce rate is almost twice as high. The risk of divorce is greatest before the child is 8 years old but continues through adolescence.

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