Recent research

Soc Biol. 1997 Fall-Winter;44(3-4):159-69

Children's health and their mothers' risk of divorce or separation.

Joesch JM, Smith KR.
Contact: Department of Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle 98195, USA.

The purpose of this study is to determine how children's health conditions are related to their mothers' risk of divorce or separation. The study is based on data from over 7,000 children born to once-married mothers identified in the 1988 Child Health Supplement to the National Health Interview Survey. The effects of 15 childhood health conditions on the mothers' risk of divorce are estimated with Cox's proportional hazard models. Controlling for demographic, marital, and reproductive measures, we find that mothers' prospects for divorce are affected both positively or negatively by their children's health status, depending on the type of childhood condition and, in the case of low birth weight children, timing within the marriage. Women whose children have congenital heart disease, cerebral palsy, are blind, or had low birth weight appear to have higher risks of marital disruption than mothers of healthy children. In contrast, mothers whose children have migraines, learning disabilities, respiratory allergies, missing/deformed digits or limbs, or asthma have somewhat lower rates of divorce.

Pediatrics. 1982 Jun;69(6):747-50.

Marital stability and congenital heart disease.

Silbert AR, Newburger JW, Fyler DC.

The incidence of divorce or legal separation was studied in 438 families of children born with heart disease who entered the New England Regional Infant Cardiac Program between 1968 and 1973. The parents were interviewed when the children were 5 1/2 years old. The rate of divorce in 438 families of children with critical congenital heart disease was not significantly different from the rate in two comparison groups: (1) 25 families of children whose cardiac defect was spontaneously cured, and (2) 26 families of children catheterized in infancy for suspected cardiac defect but who were found to be free of heart disease. Rates of divorce or legal separation for the three groups were: critical congenital heart disease, 12.1%, spontaneously cured, 4.2% free of heart disease, 11.5% these rates were not significantly different. The average national divorce rate was 20.3% for the same period.

Pediatrics. 1984 Jun;73(6):762-8.

Marital adjustment to chronic childhood illness: a critique of the literature.

Sabbeth BF, Leventhal JM.

Thirty-four studies of marital adjustment were selected from the literature on family adjustment to chronic childhood illness. Studies were reviewed to determine whether divorce rates were elevated or marital adjustment was poorer compared with that of families of healthy children. Of 23 studies reporting divorce rates, only six used a group of families without a chronically ill child for comparison. These studies showed no significant differences in the divorce rates between groups. Of 23 studies of marital adjustment, 83% investigated marital distress. Four of seven studies with comparison groups showed that marital distress was increased in parents of chronically ill children. Other areas of marital adjustment, such as communication, decision-making, and role flexibility, have received almost no attention by researchers. It is questioned whether divorce or distress is an adequate indicator of marital adjustment in general. Further studies are needed to understand the relationships between divorce, distress, and other important areas of marital adjustment to chronic childhood illness.

Cardiol Young. 2004 Apr;14(2):131-9.

Psychological functioning in parents of children undergoing elective cardiac surgery.

Wray J, Sensky T.
Contact: Paediatric Surgical Unit, Harefield Hospital, Harefield, Middlesex and Imperial College London, West Middlesex University Hospital, Isleworth, Middlesex, UK.

Purpose: To assess levels of distress, the marital relationship, and styles of coping of parents of children with congenital heart disease, to evaluate any change in these parameters following elective cardiac surgery for their child, and to compare these parents with parents of children undergoing another form of hospital treatment, and with parents of healthy children. Design: A prospective study in which parents were assessed the day before the surgical procedure being undergone by their child, and 12 months afterwards. Participants: We assessed three groups of parents of 75 children, aged from birth to 16.9 years. The first was a group whose children were undergoing surgery because of congenital heart disease, the second was a group whose children were undergoing transplantation of bone marrow, and the third was a group whose children were healthy. Measures used for assessment included the General Health Questionnaire, the Dyadic adjustment scale, and the Utrecht coping list. Results: Parents in both groups of children undergoing surgery had significantly higher rates of distress prior to the surgical procedures than did the parents of the healthy children, but within those whose children were undergoing cardiac surgery, there were no differences between parents of children with cyanotic and acyanotic lesions. Following treatment, there was a significant reduction in the levels of distress in both groups whose children had undergone surgery. There were few differences between any of the groups on the other parameters, and the evaluated indexes showed stability over time. Conclusion: Despite elevated levels of psychological distress prior to surgical procedures, which had fallen after one year, the stability of other parameters of parental functioning over time suggests that the surgical interventions are of less significance than either factors attributable to the presence of chronic illness, or the individual characteristics of the parents.