Are Parents of Disabled Children More Likely to Divorce?

Former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, recently filed for divorce. While this may not exactly be a shocker to those who found her and her spouse incompatible due to their opposite personalities, many parents of children with disabilities were heartbroken because they looked to the couple as inspiration. They wanted to see a good example of a marriage surviving despite having to raise a disabled child.

The Palins are parents of Trig, their 11-year-old boy who was born with Down syndrome. Did the marriage succumb to the stress of raising a child with a disability, like the myths tend to portray? There is actually no evidence that the Palins’ divorce makes the myths true.

Having a child with a disability is no piece of cake. There are many pressures involved. There are more demands to tend to and sacrifices to make. Even raising a fully abled, healthy child is not easy. Therefore, it’s a stretch to believe that simply because a couple has a disabled child means their marriage is automatically doomed.

However, this myth is compounded by the idea of ableism, which tends to think that a life is always better when no disability is involved. It’s essentially a form of prejudice that treats disabled people as inferior to others.

In regards to Down syndrome, while living with the condition has its challenges, it is believed that the negative aspects are exaggerated. These assumptions are not based on facts. In fact, 85% of parents who have children with Down syndrome are positive and proud of their children regardless of their disability. A study from 2007 actually showed that the average divorce rates of parents of children with Down syndrome were lower than average. While this does not mean that the couples were happily married, the results at least show a degree of family stability.

When studying parents of children with any developmental disabilities, the results were similarly positive. A 2015 study saw no signs of an increased risk of divorce among parents of children with developmental disabilities. However, in families with children without disabilities, more children equaled a higher risk of divorce. There was no evidence of this in families with children with disabilities, which means that families with disabled children tend to be more willing to adapt.

A study from 2010 showed a slightly different picture, though. Parents raising children with autism tended to have a slightly higher risk of divorce and marital instability, particularly when the children reached adolescence. However, this does not suggest a marriage is doomed to fail.

Contact a Maryland Divorce Lawyer Today

Divorce can happen to any couple, whether or not they have children. While raising a disabled child is certainly not easy, many couples do it successfully while keeping their marriage intact.

Parenthood, however, can be stressful and it can take a toll on a marriage. The Columbia divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. can help you through the emotional and legal aspects. Schedule a consultation by calling (410) 774-5987 or filling out the online form. We have two offices to serve you.


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