A Qualitative Exploration of Perceived Injustice Among Individuals Living With Spinal Cord Injury

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Purpose/Objective: The purpose of the present qualitative study was to explore how people living with spinal cord injury (SCI) conceptualize 2 factors believed to contribute to perceptions of injustice (i.e., severity/irreparability of loss and blame/sense of unfairness) and identify specific sources that contribute to these perceptions. Research Method/Design: To assess perceived injustice, the 12-item Injustice Experience Questionnaire (IEQ) was administered via telephone to individuals enrolled in the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center database who were 1 or 5 years postinjury. Participants then took part in individual, semistructured interviews exploring their experiences of perceived injustice following SCI. Four items from the IEQ formed the basis of the interviews. Two items representing each aforementioned factor of the IEQ were chosen. Qualitative data from 15 participants were subjected to content analysis to identify common themes. Results: In response to items related to blame/unfairness, participants spoke about who and/or what was responsible for their injury, and these sources fell into 2 categories: fate or circumstance and internalized blame. In response to items related to severity/irreparability of loss, the predominant themes that emerged were life with disability, lack of understanding by others, and focus on the positive. Conclusions/Implications: The present study contributes a level of richness and depth to current conceptualizations of perceived injustice. Findings suggest that for individuals living with SCI, perceived injustice may be less related to fault and blame but instead more closely related to a lack of understanding of the injury. Further quantitative research is needed to elucidate these relationships.

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