In this project, we are using statewide, administrative databases to examine questions of health and family dynamics for two groups of individuals. Our data for this project come from several Tennessee state records, over periods of up to 13 years. These records include the Birth records of all 80,000 TN births per year (1990-2002), Hospital Discharge Records (approximately 1 million per year), as well as Marriage (80,000 per year) and Divorce (40,000/yr) records. In addition, we are "linking" such records together to examine various individual issues (e.g., a child's recurrent hospitalizations over time) and family issues (divorce within particular families). So far, we have examined two issues. First, we have used the Birth, Hospital Discharge, and Divorce databases to examine the amount, timing, and correlates of divorce among families of children with Down syndrome. Compared to families of non-disabled children or of children with other birth defects, families of children with Down syndrome were slightly less likely to divorce. When divorce did occur, however, they were much more likely in the Down syndrome versus the other two groups to occur before the child with Down syndrome had turned 2 years of age. Even compared to the other two groups, within the Down syndrome group, less educated parents, as well as less educated fathers living in rural areas, were especially prone to divorce. Our second study examines hospitalizations in the child with Down syndrome's first two years of life. A full 50% of infants with Down syndrome are hospitalized, for heart-related and for respiratory problems. From these data, Down syndrome should be considered a high-risk health condition, at least during the child's earliest years. By detailing characteristics of family and child health in Down syndrome, our research is beneficial for conceptualizing and implementing a variety of social and medical services.
Robert Hodapp, Ph.D., (615) 322-8946