Considering having another child
in Parents with disabled children: changing expectations

For any parents, having another child is a big decision that requires serious consideration. So, if you are thinking about having another child, it’s likely your discussion will be affected by the financial, social, and health factors already in play in your lives.

As parents of disabled children, you may be feeling this even more strongly. Studies have shown that parents raising children with disabilities are more likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression, (Stoneman, 2007) as well as relationship difficulties and problems at work (Simsek et al., 2015).

One study asked parents of disabled children their thoughts around having another child. The main concerns included:

  • Having less time to care for existing children
  • Not having enough money to care for another child
  • Risk of health problems in the next child (Simsek et al., 2015)

Siblings

You may also be concerned about what kind of life another child would have as the sibling of someone who requires regular extra care. You might be worried that your next child would have a stressful life, or that you wouldn’t be able to dedicate as much time to them as you would like to.

This is certainly worth considering - some studies have shown that siblings of disabled children can experience increased stress in their lives (Murray, 2000) (Javadian, 2011). However, there is also evidence of siblings feeling a positive benefit of living with a disabled sibling. Children who are involved in the care of disabled siblings can grow up learning to be more helpful and compassionate than other children, and may also develop greater emotional awareness (Javadian, 2011) (Fisman et al., 1996).

How will having another child affect your relationship?

While parents of disabled children are statistically more likely to separate (Gardener and Harmon, 2002) (Patterson, 2002), many couples have a much more positive experience, and find that their relationship is strengthened and their bond solidified. Parents of children with additional needs have to rely on each other for support, and this can benefit your couple relationship, bringing you closer together (Simsek et al., 2015).

It’s likely that you’ll have a lot to think about as you make a decision around whether or not to try for another child. However, depending on your experiences, you may feel more confident knowing that you’ve made it this far, learning and growing together. Whatever other factors you need to consider, the fact that you are thinking about it at all could be a positive sign about the strength of your relationship as a couple, and your capacity as parents.

References

Cahill, B. M., & Glidden, L. M. (1996). Influence of child diagnosis on family and parental functioning: Down syndrome versus other disabilities. American journal of mental retardation: AJMR, 101(2), 149-160.

Fisman, S., Wolf, L., Ellison, D., Gillis, B., Freeman, T., & Szatmari, P. (1996). Risk and protective factors affecting the adjustment of siblings of children with chronic disabilities. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 35(11), 1532-1541.

Gardner, J., & Harmon, T. (2002). Exploring resilience from a parent’s perspective: A qualitative study of six resilient mothers of children with an intellectual disability. Australian Social Work, 55(1), 60-68.

Javadian, R. (2011). A comparative study of adaptability and cohesion in families with and without a disabled child. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, 2625-2630.

Kearney, P. M., & Griffin, T. (2001). Between joy and sorrow: being a parent of a child with developmental disability. Journal of advanced nursing, 34(5), 582-592.

Marsh, J. C. (2003). Editorial: Arguments for Family Strengths Research. Social Work, 48(2), 147-149.

Murray, J. S. (2000). Attachment theory and adjustment difficulties in siblings of children with cancer. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 21(2), 149-169.

Patterson, J. M. (2002). Integrating family resilience and family stress theory. Journal of marriage and family, 64(2), 349-360.

Şimşek, T. T., Taşçı, M., & Karabulut, D. (2015). Desire to have other children in families with a chronically disabled child and its effect on the relationship of the parents. Turkish Archives of Pediatrics/Türk Pediatri Arşivi, 50(3), 163.

Stoneman, Z., & Gavidia-Payne, S. (2006). Marital adjustment in families of young children with disabilities: Associations with daily hassles and problem-focused coping. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 111(1), 1-14.

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