Friday, September 23, 2011

The Down Syndrome Advantage

A few months back, I took a psychology class (in my slow attempt to finish college before my kids).  One of our assignments was to read a scholarly article on anything related to psychology, summarize it, and present it to the class.  I chose an article about "The Down Syndrome Advantage" and how families cope with life differently if they have a relative (child or sibling) with Down syndrome.  I didn't only choose this topic because of Darya, but because I found it intriguing that many families who have a child with DS will often adopt another child (or more!) with DS, as well, realizing that the joy they bring far outweighs any burden.  Of course, I know of many families who have children with other disabilities and I know this can pertain to them, too, but I just found this study interesting.  Instead of grouping all disabilities together, they separated DS to see if there was a difference in the way families cope than those with a different disability.  It is a very general summary of the population they encountered in the studies and there is far more research to do. Anyway, here's my short summary of the what was in the article:

The article argues that among families where a disability is present, there is an advantage when that disability is Down syndrome (DS).  In support of this thesis, research suggests that there is a distinct advantage both for mothers and for siblings while the advantage for fathers is less conclusive.  For example, mothers of children DS tend to cope better than mothers of children with other disabilities (autism, fragile X syndrome, FAS, etc.), and siblings of children with DS tend to have increased levels of empathy for individuals who are different. While there are no reported negative impacts on the siblings of children with DS, the present evidence suggests that as adults these siblings often have a more positive relationship with their brother and/or sister.  It is not understood why this advantage exists, but one suggestion is that on average, people with Down syndrome tend to display upbeat and sociable personalities.  Another view is that babies with DS are often born to women of advanced maternal age, who are more mature and experienced as mothers.  Considering the wide array of demographics and cultural differences among families, there remains much to be learned, but the present research results are encouraging.  The conclusion of this study states, “families who have offspring with this syndrome cope better than do families of individuals with other disabilities. This Down syndrome advantage seems to cut across different disability control groups, measures, ages, and respondents.”


  1. Just another reason Darya is such a blessing, right? :)

  2. As the mom of a beautiful daughter with Down syndrome and a beautiful daughter with Asperger's syndrome (autism) I can attest to the truth of that article - at least in our case. My middle child (Aspergers) had us swearing we would have NOOOOOO more children. I'm not going to say she *caused* my excessively high blood pressure, but I wasn't fat or out of shape when I developed it in my 30's. Our youngest was a little surprise package sent directly from above! She is our stabilizer. While the middle kiddo has me pulling out my hair so many days each week, our youngest can ALWAYS make me smile. She lights up the room and lowers my blood pressure with her sweet hugs and kisses. She may be the reason we have survived our middle child this long... just sayin'

  3. As a mother to 5 children on the autism spectrum, 1 with spina bifida & 2 with Down syndrome, I agree with the article's conclusions.

    I was told years before we adopted the girls (who both have Ds) that if you had to have a child with a disability, Down syndrome was the one to hope for because almost everyone recognizes people with Down syndrome & therefore it's a "known" special need (versus, say, autism, which isn't always obvious & can result in a mother being accused of not properly parenting her "brat" when her son is having a sensory meltdown at a store). I was told that Down syndrome was the "special needs jackpot." In my experience, people ARE more understanding of my daughters' special needs than my sons', which is interesting.

    On the flip side, people have preconceived opinions of what ALL kids with Down syndrome are like and that can be frustrating when you are parenting kids with Ds who are nothing like the "norm".

    Interesting topic ~ thanks for sharing!