The likelihood that a couple will divorce increases each time they have a child, American academics have suggested.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison analysed data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS). This is a long-term survey of over 10,000 people who graduated from high schools in the state in 1957 and their siblings. Participants were tracked over a number of years and provided data on matters ranging from their health to their relationships.
Using the WLS data, graduate student Eun Ha Namkung and her two study co-authors found that each successive child increases the odds the parents will eventually divorce.
However, this was not the case in families with disabled children. In those families, the number of children had no impact on the likelihood of divorce.
Eun Ha Namkung said that because of the challenges associated with parenting children with disabilities many people may believe that “in general, [such parents] are more likely to experience divorce”. Based on the University of Wisconsin research, that did not appear to be the case.
She suggested that this could be because “other children in the family [act as] a vital support system for parents” of children with developmental problems. If there are “typically-developing children” in the house, they can help support their sibling. This could result in less marital stress than that experienced by parents of large families among the general population.
While the WLS data gave researchers a long period of time from which to draw their information, they did admit it had some drawbacks. For instance, there was not much ethnic diversity as most of the participants were white. Additionally, everyone surveyed was born between 1930 and 1935. Researchers said that it is possible the divorce rates may be different in subsequent generations.
The study was published in the academic American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.