1. Examine the association between having a child with a current ASD diagnosis and the relationship status of their parents.
2. Identify factors that contribute to a greater likelihood of a child with ASD living with two biological or adoptive parents.
Methods: Data used for this study were taken from the 2007 National Survey for Child Health (Blumberg et al., 2009). Using children ages 3 to 17 years, our final sample size was 77,911. Survey weights allow the results to generalize to the noninstitutionalized US population of children. The outcome variable of family structure was dichotomized as being either traditional (two parent household, either biological or adoptive) or non-traditional (a two parent household with step-parents, a single mother or father, other relatives, or other family types). A four-stage sequence of survey weighted logistic regression models were developed to examine the association between having a child with a current ASD diagnosis and living in a traditional family, while controlling for potential confounders. Model 1 controlled for basic demographic confounders; Model 2 added maternal characteristics; Model 3 included additional socioeconomic indicators; and Model 4 included co-occurring psychiatric diagnoses in the child (Externalizing, Internalizing, and ADHD).
Results: No association between a child having a current ASD diagnosis and their family structure was identified in the first three logistic models (OR range .98 - 1.06, all p>.05). However, this association reached marginal significance when concurrent psychiatric diagnoses were included (OR 1.66, 95% CI (1.03-2.67), p=.04).
Conclusions: Results from the analysis found no consistent evidence of an association between a child having an ASD diagnosis and that child living in a traditional versus nontraditional family. Once we control for co-occurring psychiatric disorders, our results show that a child with an ASD is slightly more likely than those without ASD to live in a traditional household. This somewhat counter-intuitive result is likely due to particularly low probabilities of living in traditional households for children with those other disorders, regardless of whether or not they have ASD. In fact, exploratory analyses suggest that having ADHD, Externalizing, and Internalizing disorders are more strongly related to the probability of not living in a traditional household than is ASD. Findings from this study hold important implications to both research and intervention for families of children with ASDs.