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Autism In Children Doesn't Drive Parents To Divorce

The conventional wisdom is that autism breaks up families. But a new scientific analysis says that's not true.

For years, media reports and advocacy groups have cited a statistic that the divorce rate in families that include a child with autism is 80 percent.

No one seemed to know where that figure came from. And some experts doubted it was accurate.

One of those experts is Brian Freedman, clinical director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

There's good research showing that autism puts extra stress on a marriage. But, he says, "It's a logical leap to assume that these families would have a high rate of divorce as well."

Freedman led a team that decided to settle the issue by looking at data from the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health.

After reviewing information about nearly 78,000 kids, some with autism and some without, they found that autism had no effect on the likelihood that a child would belong to a family with two married parents.

"It was really nice to see the level of resiliency that these families have," he says.

Freedman presented the findings at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia.

The new study should offer some hope to couples just finding out that they have a child with autism, Freedman says. Until now, he says, they have been hit by "a diagnosis of autism and then immediately afterward a diagnosis of divorce."



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