A new study at the Cancer Registry of Norway shows that the total divorce rate is the same for parents having or not having a child with cancer. Neither the child’s age, length of illness, nor the prognosis influences the possibility of divorce.
"Having a sick child is shown to increase parent’s stress and care burden. To which extent this also affects parental divorce rates is more uncertain. Few studies exist that have examined this type of data," says Astrid Syse, researcher at the Cancer Registry of Norway.
She has therefore completed a study that looks at the possibility of childhood cancer influencing parental divorce rate. The study is carried out in collaboration with Jon Håvard Loge at the Norwegian Radium Hospital and Torkild Hovde Lyngstad at the University of Oslo and paid for by the Norwegian Cancer Society.
None of the cancer types give a lower divorce rate
The divorce rate among 4590 couples who have a child with cancer is compared with the rate in couples who do not have a child with cancer. The couples were followed for twelve years on the average. None of the cancer types among children gave a reduced risk of divorce, however Wilms’ Tumour (a type of kidney cancer) gave a 52 percent increased risk of divorce.
A somewhat higher divorce rate is seen in couples where mothers have a higher level of education. For these pairs the divorce rate is increased by totally 16 per cent when a child has cancer. Divorce happens mainly in cases where the child is young, a short time after the diagnosis, where parents have lost a child in cancer, after brain cancer and Wilms’ tumour. A thought might be that mothers with higher education more than others will meet the challenges regarding combining a demanding job situation with the care of a sick child. However, this theory has to be supported by other studies.
Disproves a myth
This study thereby disproves some of the myths that exist among clitians and parents with chronically ill children; that these parents are especially vulnerable to experiencing a divorce.
However, the background for the finds that are made regarding Wilms’ tumour and mothers with a higher level of education must be examined closer with other types of study design and data.