“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Divorce and children with down's syndrome

In the recent American Journal on Mental Retardation, there is an article entitled, "Divorce in families of children with down syndrome: A population-based study" by Urbano and Hodapp (vol. 112, number 4, 261-274, July 2007). The abstract states the following...
In this study we examined the nature, timing and correlates of divorce in
families or children with Down syndrome (647), other birth defects (10,283) and
no identified disability (361,154). Divorce rates among families of
children with Down syndrome were lower than the other groups. When divorce
did occur in the Down syndrome group, hoever, a higher proportion occurred
within the first 2 years after the child's birth.
The article goes on to mention the "Down syndrome advantage" that being that "families of children with Down syndrome cope better than do parents and familes of children with other disabilities." Over the 12 year period studied (1990-2002) the divorce rate was 7.6% in families with children with down's syndrome, 10.8% in the comparison group (not identified disability) and 11.2% in the other birth defects group. The one caviat finding relative to down's syndrome, was, "Of families who divorce after the birth of the index child, families of children with Down syndrome were almost twice as likely to divorce during the first two years of the child's life."

Finally, the authors make the following statement in the discussion section of the article.
Taken together, the results of this study have important practical and
theoretical implications. Practically, parents of newborns can be
counseled about the risks and timing of possible marital discord. For many
families, especially those steeped in the still commonly heard notion that
"divorce is rampant" among families of children with disabilities, it may be
comforting to know that divorce is neither a necessary nor a common outcome of
having a child with Down syndrome.
They go on to say,

...social workers and early interventionists can educate parents about
common stresses that arise during the earliest years. Those parents with
less education can be especially targeted, as can those parents-especially
fathers-who are both less educated and who live in rural areas...neither of the
United States' two main parent groups in Down syndrome currently feature special
programs designed for outreach to rural families.

What wonderful opportunities for the church. Counseling early on in the life of a family with a child with Down's syndrome and outreach to rural families in particular. There are a lot of Chrisitan churches in rural settings. How about stepping up to the challenge.



Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. I wonder what will happen to the numbers if people continue to use recent technological advances for early detection, and the only people who are having children with Down's Syndrome are the people who feel that they can do it.

Anonymous said...

Well, maybe the statistics say that divorce amongst couples with a child with down syndrome is not high, in my own experience, divorce is a very likely outcome. We have been married for 28 years and 20 months ago, we had a surprise pregnancy that resulted in a child with down syndrome. We have watched our married slowly fall apart and are now irreconcilably heading towards a divorce.