RODALE NEWSROOM, EMMAUS, PA—Parents of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are nearly twice as likely to divorce before the child turns 8 years old compared with parents of children without the condition, a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found. It is the first study to compare the durability of marriages between parents of children with and without ADHD.
THE DETAILS: Researchers from the universities of Buffalo and Pittsburgh used data from parents of adolescents and young adults with and without ADHD who were taking part in the Pittsburgh ADHD Longitudinal Study (PALS). The parents and their kids filled out questionnaires, underwent diagnostic tests, and were interviewed between 1987 and 1996, and then gave follow-up answers an average of 8 years later. Nearly all of the 282 ADHD-diagnosed children in the study were between 5 and 12 years old during their initial evaluation. About 200 non-ADHD children with similar backgrounds were compared to the PALS ADHD group.
Divorce rates of parents with ADHD-diagnosed children (22.7%) were nearly double that of the control group’s rate (12.6%). Researchers found that among the group of divorced couples with an ADHD child, certain characteristics of family members made divorce more likely. If a father showed antisocial behavior or experienced trouble with the law, or if an ADHD-diagnosed child also suffered from oppositional-defiant or conduct disorder, divorce was more likely.
WHAT IT MEANS: The study authors don’t believe that having a child diagnosed with ADHD causes parents to divorce. But they do say that a child’s disruptive behavior could pile up on top of other family stressors and cause problems between a married couple. A key strategy for parents: Don’t focus only on helping your child cope with ADHD—you and your spouse may need counseling as well. “Parents need to make sure they’re on the same page,” says Tanya Froehlich, MD, professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Both spouses should get involved and learn more about the disorder.”
Here are some ways parents can better manage their child’s ADHD, lowering stress levels for everyone in the house: