Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) researchers are reporting slightlylower divorce rates for families raising a child with Down syndrome than in the comparison groups, following an examination of the Tennessee Department of Health?s birth, hospital discharge, and divorce database records from 1990-2002.
The population-based study published in the American Journalon Mental Retardation by VKC investigators Richard Urbano, Ph.D., andRobert Hodapp, Ph.D., showed divorce rates were lower (7.6 percent) for families of children with Down syndrome as compared to 10.8 percent inthe population-group with non-disabled children and 11.25 percent forfamilies of children with other congenital birth defects.
Lower divorce rates in the Down syndrome group may be due in part to what the researchers call the "Down syndrome advantage," which refers to the personality and behavior of most children with the syndrome and the fact that parents of children with Down syndrome are often older, moreeducated, and married before having children.
"When divorce did occur in the Down syndrome group, however, ahigher proportion occurred within the first two years after the child's birth," said Urbano, who serves as VKC's director of Evaluation andcoordinator of Research Databases.
"Mothers and fathers of children with Down syndrome were morelikely to divorce if they were younger, had not graduated from high school, and if fathers were less educated and lived in a rural area."
* Researchers compared 647 families who have children with Down syndrome,
* 10,283 families with children with other developmental disabilities, and
* 361,154 families with children who did not have any disabilities.
Urbano said the findings would be helpful in counseling parentsof newborns with Down syndrome about the risks for marital discordduring the first few years after a child's birth, and also indeveloping special programs for families in rural areas.