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FACTORS IN THE MARITAL ADJUSTMENT OF COUPLES AFTER THE SPINAL CORD INJURY OF ONE OF THE PARTNERS

by ROHRER, JAMES RANDAL

Abstract (Summary)
This study explores the impact spinal cord injury (SCI) of one of the partners has had upon the marital relationship and the individual and relational characteristics which participant couples believe have helped them to maintain the integrity of their relationship. In this qualitative investigation, five couples discuss the story of their relationship prior to, and subsequent from, the spinal cord injury of one of the partners. Couples describe the characteristics and factors which assisted them in coping with SCI and make recommendations for rehabilitation and mental health professionals that increase support for individuals with SCI, their spouses, and their marriages. Literature spanning 40 years is reviewed and used as a foundation for the design of this study. This investigation is grounded using a combination of theoretical approaches: personal construction theory to seek understanding of the personal adjustment of each of the partners to the disability, ecological theory to seek explanation regarding the complexities involved in responding to trauma and marital strain; and symbolic interaction theory to give context to family systems issues as the couple adjusts roles, functions, and expectations. A descriptive, multiple case study design was used to seek understanding of the experience of participant couples and to strengthen the validity and stability of the findings. Participants were invited from two pools: An SCI association of a medium-sized midwestern state, and an Internet listserve of SCI couples. Selection criteria included: SCI occurrence at least 18 months prior; injury due to sudden onset; and, involvement in a committed relationship at the time of injury which has maintained up to the time of the study. A semi-structured format was used for each 2 ½ to 3 hour interview. All couples noted major changes in priorities and daily activities, marital role changes, the need for personal care and independence, and social changes for the couple as having major impact upon their relationship following SCI. Eighty percent reported their relationship to be stronger and the majority claimed an increase in intimacy. Extraordinary stress for the non-injured spouse and increased financial pressures are noted. Major factors contributing to maintaining these relationships include: a clear commitment to the relationship; having strong values and a spiritual foundation, meaningful employment for each spouse; having parents as good marital role models; having a positive attitude; and, returning to a normal pattern of living. Couples stressed the importance for rehabilitation professionals to listen attentively, to support and include the non-injured spouse, and to provide the couple with time alone. This research verified the results of previous studies. New findings included reduction in marital conflict regarding gender-role changes after SCI and the need for couples to share emotional closeness and friendship.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:University of Cincinnati

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:spinal cord injured marital adjustment rehabilitation couples counseling disability

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2001

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