Parents of children on the spectrum DO NOT have an 80% divorce rate. I am fed up with this myth. Those of you who know us know my sister and I have divorced parents. When they divorced (as many do), Caley Googled autism and divorce, looking for resources to help autistic people like her. What she found every child's worst nightmare - "proof" in the form of the 80% 'statistic' that she was responsible. You can imagine how that felt, and you can also imagine that she's not the only autistic person to have gone through that painful experience, an experience which they shouldn't have to confront because this claim is patently false.
I have researched this claim silly and found three studies - two that pointed to no significant difference in rates of divorce between parents of neurotypical children vs autistic children and one which pointed to a very slight increase (23.5% vs. 13.8%). I've known many parents of children on the spectrum who heard this statistic and felt their marriage was doomed to failure. If you are one of these people, know that it is not. Researchers found that having an autistic child could be difficult for parents' marriages, but it was just as likely to bring them closer together. The moral of the story is, parents of children on the spectrum get divorced about as often as parents of neurotypical children do, certainly not at an 80% rate. So please, share this picture and refute this myth whenever you hear it for the sake of the parents and their children alike. This myth is toxic and needs to go away, and if we all work together we can help it do so. Thank you.
If you want more information, I'll let the studies speak for themselves:
Relationship Status Among Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, April 2012, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 539-548
"A total of 77,911 parent interviews were completed on children aged 3–17 years, of which 913 reported an ASD diagnosis. After controlling for relevant covariates, results from multivariate analyses revealed no evidence to suggest that children with ASD are at an increased risk for living in a household not comprised of their two biological or adoptive parents compared to children without ASD in the United States."
A comparative study of the marital relationship between parents with children with autism and those with children without autism
Good Autism Practice (GAP), Volume 14, Number 1, May 2013 , pp. 28-33(6)
"In this paper, they report on a large-scale study which explored the nature of the marital relationship for 475 mothers of children with autism and 62 mothers of typically developing children. ... The authors do in fact find that there are generally more difficulties in the marital relationship of those parents with a child with autism, but that most of these parents stay married and also report that the experience has strengthened their relationships in some cases and they have experienced positive emotions as well as having difficult times."
The relative risk and timing of divorce in families of children with an autism spectrum disorder.
Hartley, Sigan L.; Barker, Erin T.; Seltzer, Marsha Mailick; Floyd, Frank; Greenberg, Jan; Orsmond, Gael; Bolt, Daniel
Journal of Family Psychology, Vol 24(4), Aug 2010, 449-457. doi: 10.1037/a0019847
"Parents of children with an ASD had a higher rate of divorce than the comparison group (23.5% vs. 13.8%)." [Again, note this is a SLIGHT difference and the number doesn't nearly reach 80%.]