Parents of Children With Cancer Are No More Likely to Divorce Than Other Couples, Says Danish Study

Researchers at the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in Copenhagen recently released the results of a 20 year study of more than 47,000 Danish couples with children comparing the divorce rate of parents with a child diagnosed with cancer versus no cancer diagnosis. The researchers found that although the parents of children with cancer are certainly under much emotional strain, they are no more likely than other couples to divorce or, in the case of unmarried cohabitating parents, separate.

Researchers were curious to see if a traumatic event such as having a child diagnosed with cancer would lead to a higher divorce rate in these couples. Dr. Christoffer Johansen, who worked on the study, says, “Overall, we did not see that. What we see is, you are simply able to cope.” Johansen goes on to say that of course, some parents of children with cancer do split up, but the rate of divorce is no higher than average.

Johansen and his team studied public registry data for the parents of 2,450 children who were diagnosed with cancer between 1980 and 1997, and the parents of 44,853 cancer-free kids. The researchers then matched each child with cancer with about 18 other kids of the same age and sex. Factors such as the parents’ employment status and household income were taken into account as well. And the researchers noted that whether the child survived cancer didn’t seem to influence the results.

Although this study was done in Denmark, and there are cultural differences between Denmark and the United States, Johansen found the results to be “quite reassuring,” and he feels the study findings can be generalized to other countries as well.

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