Brief Symptom Inventory Norms for Spinal Cord Injury

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The presence of a physical disability can alter one's responses to psychological measures designed to assess vegetative signs of depression or any other organic-related symptoms of psychopathology. This study was designed to investigate the effects of spinal cord injury (SCI) upon a person's response to the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) by analyzing differences across item-response distributions from a sample of subjects with SCI versus a nonpatient normative sample, and to develop more appropriate BSI normative data for persons with SCI. The BSI was administered to 225 subjects participating in a SCI program at a large rehabilitation center in the Midwest. Subjects met the criteria of having a traumatic SCI and of being between the ages of 17 and 68. Because subjects' time since injury varied at time of BSI administration, normative scores were provided within three groupings: at discharge from the hospital; 0 to 24 months post-discharge; and beyond 24 months (two to six years range). Study's findings revealed that SCI subjects had significantly higher BSI scores when compared to subjects in the normative sample. These differences were particularly significant across eight BSI items that reflect actual SCI physical and psychosocial symptoms. SCI subjects reported more distress during the period immediately following discharge to 24 months. Overall, BSI scores tended to be lower at discharge and after 24 months post-discharge. Guidelines for BSI cutoff scores for SCI subjects are described as well as other recommendations. The authors believe the preliminary normative data presented will serve as a means of overcoming limitations in generalizing the valid and effective use of the BSI to the SCI population.

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