There is much written about how children are affected by divorce. However, it is more difficult to find information about how having children, particularly children with special needs, can affect a marriage.
There is no doubt that having children makes parents tired, worried and poorer. But, parents who have children with chronic illnesses or special needs experience a different level of stress. Raising kids with autism, Asperger's, attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, cancer or other conditions can present serious challenges to even the healthiest marriages. Therefore, it is not surprising that a number of couples in this situation end up seeking divorce.
This is not a topic that is widely discussed. When actress Jenny McCarthy went on Oprah and talked about how her son's autism strained her marriage, people were shocked and unsure how to respond. McCarthy explained that her husband "was not interested in dealing with his son's condition," and she ultimately divorced him.
McCarthy has authored two books about raising children with autism. Her advocacy has helped people learn about the high divorce rate for parents raising special needs children. In the autism community, some say the divorce rate is as high as 80 percent. Research indicates that parents raising children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are twice as likely to divorce by the time a child reaches age 8.
The only challenging childhood condition that studies found did not seem to impact the divorce rate is Down syndrome. Experts suggest the reason may be that Down syndrome children are somewhat easier to raise. Also, since parents can test fetuses for Down syndrome, they know in advance what they are getting into.
Everyone has different ways of handling grief, shame, sadness, anger and frustration. When parents are no longer able to effectively communicate, sometimes divorcing but remaining an active part of the child's life is the best option for all involved.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Do Kids Cause Divorce?," Vicki Larson, 4 March 2011