January 13, 2010
Norwegian Study Shows No Significant Correlation Between Divorce Rate and Parenting a Child with Cancer
Using data on nearly 978,000 married couples in Norway, researchers found that divorce rates between 1974 and 2001 were no higher among couples with a child suffering from cancer compared with other parents.
When other factors were considered, such as parents' age and family income, couples who had a child with cancer were 4 percent more likely to get divorced than other parents -- a difference that was not significant in statistical terms.
Few studies have looked at divorce among parents of children with cancer. But there is often a "general perception" -- whether at cancer clinics or in support groups -- that the strain of having a child or a spouse with cancer puts couples at risk of divorce, noted Dr. Astri Syse of the Cancer Registry of Norway in Oslo, the lead researcher on the new study.
These perceptions, she told Reuters Health in an email, are "unsubstantiated myths that may add another burden to the people afflicted by cancer or afflicted family members, and thus important to highlight as incorrect."
"In general, our study ought to reassure parents of children with cancer," Syse said.
She added, however, that the study was conducted in a country with an extensive welfare system that includes free healthcare, and that may shield couples from some of the economic hardships and other stresses that can affect families dealing with a child's cancer.
That, according to Syse, leaves the question of whether the findings extend to countries with different health and welfare systems, including the U.S.
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