Researchers at MOST (Mothers of Supertwins), the leading nonprofit provider of support, education, and research on higher-order multiple births, conducted a survey of parents with multiples such as twins, triplets, quadruplets, etc. and found a divorce rate of 4.3%. This indicates that the divorce rate among this group may not be as high as many have speculated. In fact, over 95% of the marriages were intact and about 82% of the respondents reported an overall positive level of marital satisfaction.
This research was conducted to explore divorce rates among multiple birth parents in response to the May 25, 2009 “Jon & Kate Plus 8” episode on the Discovery Channel TLC. During that episode, approximately 9.8 million viewers heard Kate Gosselin say that “Parents of multiples have triple the divorce rate.” Although it certainly makes sense that parents of multiples would face additional emotional, financial, and medical-related stressors, this study is the first known research examining the divorce rate among this growing population of parents. According to MOST researcher, Dr. Laurie LaMonde, a clinical psychologist and mother of triplets, “Identifying a more accurate divorce rate is important to ease the concerns of multiple birth families as well as to determine if additional services may be beneficial for families that may be at greater risk of marital discord.”
Researchers commonly report that the lifetime divorce rate is about 40 to 50% for first marriages in the United States. In the current study, 4.3% of respondents indicated that they divorced during the pregnancy or following the birth of multiples. Specifically, the divorce rate was 3.6% for parents with twins, 5% for parents with triplets, 9.2% for parents with quadruplets, and 4.2% for parents with quintuplets or more and multiple sets of multiples. Among those who divorced, the majority of their multiples were between the ages of 1 and 5 at the time of divorce. In addition, 4.8% of respondents reported that their marriage involved a history of physical or substance abuse. Of those reporting abuse, martial dissatisfaction ratings were higher and the likelihood of divorce was greater.
A total of 2,849 parents or guardians of multiples completed the brief, 10-item online questionnaire. The majority of survey participants were mothers (97.5%) who resided in the United States (93.4%), and were predominately Caucasian (92.4%). Respondents were an average age of 32 when their multiples were conceived. Most households had an average of three children, predominately composed of twins (61%) and triplets (30%). For the vast majority of respondents, this was their first marriage (86%).
Although this preliminary study by MOST indicates that the overall divorce rate among families with multiples is low, it is important to note that that this was a convenience sample and therefore may not be representative of the general population of multiple birth parents. Therefore, caution should be made when making inferences from this data to other samples. In addition to the demographic information presented, the current sample tended to have a more advanced educational level and household income than the general population. The methodology of the study relied on families completing the survey online, which may have limited those without access to a computer. More systematic research is needed to further assess trends in multiple birth families.
This study was conducted and funded by MOST. The research team consisted of Laurie LaMonde, Ph.D., MOST Research Director; Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Penn State University; Maureen A. Doolan Boyle, MOST Executive Director; Lauretta Shokler, MOST Technology Director; and, Kelly Ross, MD, MOST Medical Director, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Newborn Medicine Washington University School of Medicine & Pediatric Hospitalist at Missouri Baptist Hospital.
MOST (Mothers of Supertwins), a community of families, volunteers and professionals founded in 1987, is the leading national nonprofit provider of support, education and research on higher-order multiple births. MOST’s mission is to advocate for quality prenatal care, promote healthy deliveries, and supply information to all multiple birth families in order to support successful parenting through every phase of their children’s development. Specifically, MOST offers a variety of support resources, such as online support forums (including a single parent forum), personal support, and publications.
Additional information regarding these resources is available at www.mostonline.org