Couple Relationships and Emotional Well-being After Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Gosling, Jo (1996). Couple Relationships and Emotional Well-being After Severe Traumatic Brain Injury. PhD thesis The Open University.



A quantitative method complemented by a qualitative approach was used to explore couple relationships after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Eighteen couples where the male had sustained a severe head injury, who were in stable relationships before the injury, and still together at the time of the study, took part. The study focused on the reports and experiences of the women, between one and seven years after the injury; data was gathered in personal interviews. Significant differences were found between: the quality of the relationship before and after the injury, in the direction of deterioration of the relationship after injury, aspects of sexual satisfaction before and after injury, again in the direction of deterioration. Significant differences were also found between head injured mens' and womens' reports of aspects of marital state, with women reporting more problems than men. The more sexually coercive men were perceive to be, the lower the womens' ratings of sexual satisfaction; the less welcome head-injured mens’ sexual advances were, the more the women partners avoided sexual contact.

The qualitative component indicates that the women in the sample had coped with multiple losses and acquired extra responsibilities, leading to a high level of emotional distress and denial of feelings; many were ambivalent and confused about their partners' feelings for them. Commitment and companionship were cited as positive aspects of the relationship. The future was seen either with little change or not anticipated at all. Little formal support had been offered and most women said that thay would have liked individual help from services. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.

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