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J Fam Psychol. 2010 Aug;24(4):449-57. doi: 10.1037/a0019847.

The relative risk and timing of divorce in families of children with an autism spectrum disorder.

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  • 1Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53705, USA. hartley@waisman.wisc.edu


We compared the occurrence and timing of divorce in 391 parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and a matched representative sample of parents of children without disabilities using a survival analysis. Parents of children with an ASD had a higher rate of divorce than the comparison group (23.5% vs. 13.8%). The rate of divorce remained high throughout the son's or daughter's childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood for parents of children with an ASD, whereas it decreased following the son's or daughter's childhood (after about age 8 years) in the comparison group. Younger maternal age when the child with ASD was born and having the child born later in the birth order were positively predictive of divorce for parents of children with an ASD. Findings have implications for interventions focused on ameliorating ongoing and long-term marital strains for parents of children with an ASD.

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