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For those of you who are married with children, if you could do something that would not only improve your marriage, but also help your children become more empathetic, wouldn’t you do it? Oddly, many people do decide against this way to enhance their family life.

Although having a child with Down syndrome is good for your marriage and for the other siblings, many people choose to terminate pregnancies when they find out that their unborn child has Down syndrome. As the father of a child with disabilities (not Down syndrome), I understand the fear and grief that parents experience when they learn that their child will have a disability, but my wife and I have no regrets about raising our disabled daughter.

Because Down syndrome is such a specific genetic anomaly, some researchers have studied people with Down syndrome and their families. I don’t know the reasons why people choose to terminate pregnancies when prenatal testing indicated Down syndrome, but I do know that they are missing out.

Improve your marriage! Couples who have a child with Down syndrome have a lower divorce rate than the general population. In 2007, researchers from Vanderbilt University published results of a massive study of hundreds of thousands of couples, some who had children with Down syndrome, some who had children with other disabilities, and some who had children with no disabilities. Their surprising finding, “Divorce rates among families of children with Down syndrome were lower than in the other two groups. When divorce did occur in the Down syndrome group, however, a higher proportion occurred within the first 2 years after the child’s birth.”

Deepen the love! Another study, conducted in 2011, interviewed siblings of people with Down syndrome. The 282 respondents mentioned a variety of life lessons learned by having a sibling with Down syndrome. “The most frequently cited lesson was an enhanced perspective on life — that life was good in many ways ... These older brothers and sisters mentioned that they gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for human differences ... They learned patience ... They have learned that everyone has talents ... Yet, siblings also realized that life can be cruel at times ... Some cited lessons on humility ... others gained deeper understanding about their own faith or beliefs ... Many siblings cited lessons on advocacy.”

Today, World Down Syndrome Day, celebrates people who have Down Syndrome. Today’s date — 3/21 — coincides with the extra or 3rd chromosome in the 21st pair of human chromosomes. Let’s celebrate people who have Down syndrome and the contributions they make in society and in their own families. 

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