Raising a child with a developmental disability requires loves, commitment and perseverance, and large amounts of patience. For a very long time it was commonly thought that couples raising a child with a developmental disability were at a much higher risk for marital separation and / or divorce. However, a recent study conducted by a group of researchers from the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison show that these couples do not experience a higher risk of divorce when there are additional children in the family.
Divorce Risk Study
This groundbreaking study was recently published in The American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. In addition to analyzing the divorce rates of couples raising a child with a developmental disability based on family size, the study also reviews the divorces rates of those couples who are raising children without a developmental disability to provide a point of comparison.
The study determined that for couples raising a child without any disabilities, the divorce rate was lowest for those with only one child, but then increased as family size increased. In contrast, the divorce risk for couples raising a child with developmental disabilities was greatest with only one child, but did not increase as family size increased.
Of all the families included in the study, 20 percent of couples raising a child or children without any disabilities divorced. In comparison, approximately 22 percent of couples raising a child with a developmental disability divorced.
The research team determined that the risk of divorce stabilized for these larger families because couples with typically-developing children would also care for and support their siblings with disabilities, which resulted in less marital stress. In short, the larger family acts as a support system for both the parents and the child with the disability and leads to greater harmony and stability for all members.
Looking at Divorce Risk Data
The study results were derived through the analysis of sixty years of historical family data from 190 parents whose children had a range of developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other forms of intellectual disabilities. Looking at data collected over this long time period was essential as the challenges of caring for a child with a developmental disability can vary over a lifetime.
While the study offers some much-needed hope and insight into the dynamics of couples and families that have a child with a developmental disability, researchers are already looking ahead. Follow up projects hope to uncover additional information from ethnically diverse families, couples from more recent generations that have younger families, and investigating additional types of disabilities, such as mental illness, to determine those effects on the divorce rate.
While there is little doubt that raising a child with a developmental disability offers rewards and challenges that are different for each family, the research shows that it does not have to result in a strained and unhappy marriage.
If you are looking for services or programs for children with developmental disabilities in the Northern Colorado and Fort Collins region, please review the following regional resources:
Foothills Gateway: www.foothillsgateway.org
High Pointe Services: www.highpointeservices.org
Developmental Disabilities Resource Center: www.ddrcco.com
If you and your spouse will be filing for divorce in Northern Colorado or reside in the Larimer County or Fort Collins region, and want to explore divorce options that protect your children as much as possible, do not hesitate to contact Laura Monty Law. We provide collaborative divorce representation, divorce mediation services, legal advising for uncontested divorces, and a full array of divorce and family law services to meet your family’s needs. We strongly believe in taking a compassionate approach to family law, and recognize that every situation is unique.