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Help Lower Divorce Rates Among TBI Victims

I always knew that my sisters and I were alike, but I could have never guessed that our significant others would all be military men.  We were all captivated by their stories, their bravery, their discipline. I didn't know these military men would also have a profound impact on my professional life.

While working on my doctorate in psychology,  I studied cognition, or the various mental processes of the brain. The brain injury victims I encountered through my family’s military connection affected me most.

I learned that TBI causes a decreased ability to maintain relationships, including marriage.  Wives of men who have experienced a TBI tend to have more difficulties with the resulting disability than other family members do. Compared to wives of physically injured and normal groups, wives of individuals with a TBI tend to be themselves more socially isolated and lonely, reporting less contact with old and new friends.

I also found that the research shows separations and divorce occur in many marriages in which one spouse incurs a TBI.  The divorce rates in TBI studies vary widely, with some studies indicating that more than half of marriages among those with a TBI dissolve within 7 years.  The most recent studies are showing more optimistic results, suggesting only 5.2% of marriages post-TBI end in divorce. These results may be seen as an increasing trend toward more supportive spouses or effective and comprehensive medical and rehabilitation treatment, or cultural differences in marriage and treatment.

I am now working on a study that examines factors beyond the traditional perceived burden as a caregiver and rates of separation/divorce.   The current study wishes to examine many factors of the marriage that may lead to marital satisfaciton as experienced by the spouses of individuals who have sustained a TBI.  It is my hope that the results can be compared to non-injured couples and inform future treatment for the married couple that has endured a TBI. Specifically, we are interested to see if any gender differences exist and how severity of brain injury impacts marital functioning.

So I am asking SpouseBuzz readers to participate in this study so I can compare military families who have experienced a TBI with those who have not.   If you would like to anonymously participate in this survey and contribute to the research, please visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MarriageResearch to see if you meet further criteria and to participate. There are no known risks of participation. You may contact Kjj4952@ego.thechicagoschool.edu (principal investigator) or mekelharris@thechicagoschool.edu (dissertation chair) for further questions about the study. For questions concerning your rights in this research study, contact The Chicago School Institutional Review Board (IRB) at 312.467.2343.

Though I can only hope that my sister’s marriages and my own are never affected by traumatic brain injury, I know that there are many other military marriages, very similar to ours, that are affected by the devastating results of a traumatic brain injury.  I want to be part of the team that enhances treatment. Kristina J. Jackson is a  fourth year clinical psychology doctoral student at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Her husband served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Royal Air Force and is currently working in the aircraft industry in California.

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