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Study: Child’s illness does not affect parents’ chance of divorce

It has long been believed that the parents of a child who is battling cancer or another terminal disease are more likely to divorce than parents who do not have ill children, due to the added stress, sorrow and financial pressure that often accompany such an illness. But according to a new study, that may not be the case.

In the study, Danish researchers looked at about 47,000 couples over the course of 20 years to determine whether the parents of children with cancer are more or less likely to divorce than the parents of healthy children. Specifically, they examined public registry data for the parents of 2,450 children who were diagnosed with cancer between 1980 and 1997. For each ill child, researchers compared 18 healthy children of the same gender and age.

Ultimately, the researchers found no significant difference in the rates of divorce between parents of ill and healthy children. This was the case even when a child passed away.

According to researcher Dr. Christoffer Johansen, the results were surprising. A terminally ill child “changes the whole family life, affects siblings, affects the relationship between the man and the woman, their sex life, taking care of the kids, going to the grocery store,” he said. “All aspects of life are affected by the diagnosis and treatment.”

Because of this, he said, the study findings may indicate that parents are simply making sacrifices to protect their children, even potentially putting their own happiness on the backburner as they focus on helping their child through the illness.

Source: Huffington Post, “Divorce, Cancer Delinked: Child’s Illness Doesn’t Tear Up Marriage,” Natasha Burton, April 11, 2012

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