Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Health Sciences

Advisor(s)

Audrey J. Burnett

Stephanie L. Baller

Cynthia R. O'Donoghue

Abstract

Well-documented symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) include acute symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, and memory loss. However, many TBI survivors also experience changes in cognition, behavior, personality, and mood that challenge interpersonal relationships. These invisible, neurobehavioral symptoms are uniquely challenging for survivors and caregivers of mild TBIs that lack physical, daily reminders that can accompany more severe injuries. The present study focused on the effects of survivors’ mild TBIs on their romantic relationships and the potential for a deteriorating support system. A convergent parallel mixed methods approach quantitatively assessed the environment of romantic relationships after brain injury via questionnaires (n=41), while qualitatively seeking to understand couples’ reactions to that environment as well as strategies used to adapt to that environment via interviews (n=4). Results confirmed a decrease in relationship satisfaction pre- to post-injury (p<0.001), while also indicating a greater cynicism from caregiving partners. Interviewed participants shared experiences falling into themes of: changes in self (survivor), effect on the relationship, strategies, discontent with resources, and advice to future couples. Understanding the complex, ambiguous experience of a romantic relationship affected by brain injury is essential for professionals to comprehensively treat and for couples to comprehensively recover.

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