Oct. 24, 2008 -- Married couples who have a child with attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are nearly twice as likely to divorce by the time
the child is age 8 than are couples who do not have children affected by the
disorder, according to a new study.
"We've known that ADHD kids can be very stressful for their parents," says
William E. Pelham Jr., PhD, professor of psychology and pediatrics at the
University at Buffalo and the study's senior author. "What this [new study]
shows is that stress occurs in the marriage as well as in other aspects of the
Having a child with ADHD "probably causes a lot of arguments" between the
husband and wife about how to handle the situation, Pelham tells WebMD. ADHD
affects 5% or more of U.S. children, with symptoms including an inability to
concentrate and follow directions, forgetfulness, and a tendency to
"If they don't get together on how to solve the problem, the child's
behavior is not going to improve," he says. "The situation gets worse, and if
those arguments don't get resolved, not only does the child's parenting not
improve but the marriage worsens -- and almost a quarter of the families get
This is test text for a community contextual link without any link header.
The text would contain a hypertext link to the community blog, board, or
group. Or ADHD
slideshow, as in this case.
Pelham and his colleagues collected data from the parents of 282 teens and
young adults diagnosed with ADHD in childhood who were part of a larger
research study, the Pittsburgh ADHD Longitudinal Study (PALS). They also
evaluated the parents of 206 teens and young adults without the disorder.
The parents answered questions about how long they had been married, their
educational levels, and any history of depression, substance abuse, or
The child's birth date, not the date of the parents' marriage, was the
starting point. The parents of children with ADHD had been married nearly five
years before the child with ADHD was born and the parents of the children
without ADHD had been married a little over five years before the child was
Nearly twice as many parents of ADHD children had divorced by the time the
child was age 8, the study showed. Although 22.7% of the parents with ADHD
children had divorced by the time the affected child was 8, just 12.6% of
parents whose children did not have ADHD had split by the time the child was
Certain risk factors in the children and the parents made divorce more
likely, researchers found. If the child had coexisting disorders, such as
oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or conduct disorder (CD), it boosted the
risk. A father’s antisocial behavior, such as having a DUI, boosted divorce
risk, as did a discrepancy in the amount of education between partners, such as
a mother having a low level and a father a high level.