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Study Shows a “Diagnosis of Autism is not a Diagnosis of Divorce”
June 22, 2011 By Liz McGarry
As a college student, I learned a lot of what I know about the world from surfing the Internet. Whether I’m checking out tomorrow’s forecast or the latest YouTube sensation, I rely heavily on my laptop to tell me what I need to know. Although I never want to believe that it could let me down, the truth is that the Internet can sometimes be more of a conniving trickster than a trusty friend. It’s so easy to believe everything that is out there, especially when an article is well written and seems reliable. I like to think that I am an expert at spotting false information, but at my first day at Alternative Choices psychotherapy. I learned that I, too, have fallen victim to a myth that has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years.
Many people have heard this statistic as it has been cited frequently throughout cyberspace and beyond: “Parents of children with autism have an 80 percent divorce rate, much higher than that of the general population.” Although everyone seems to quote it, including the hit television show Parenthood (see the video below), this statistic has yet to be connected with any empirical evidence. In fact, a study last year “revealed no evidence to suggest that children with ASD are at an increased risk for living in a household not comprised of their two biological or adoptive parents.” According to the study, 65 percent of typically developing children lived in a two-parent household, compared to 64 percent of children with an ASD.
This of course does not imply that raising a child with autism is free of challenges. There have been many studies documenting increased parental-related stress and marital dissatisfaction among parents of children with autism. Nevertheless, Dr. Brian Freedman, lead author of the study, emphasizes the important message that a diagnosis of autism is not a diagnosis of divorce. As for me, I thank Dr. Freedman for reminding me that even a good “fact checker” can fall for a faulty statistic. If you’re interested, click here for an article about the study.