Relationship Stability After Traumatic Brain Injury Among Veterans and Service Members: A VA TBI Model Systems Study

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Abstract

Objective:

To explore stability of relationships and predictors of change in relationship status 2 years following TBI/polytrauma.

Setting:

Five Department of Veterans Affairs Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (VA PRCs).

Participants:

A total of 357 active duty service members and Veterans enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems database with complete marital status information at 2 years postinjury.

Design:

Prospective, longitudinal, multisite.

Main Measures:

Relationship status change was defined as change in marital status (single/never married; married; divorced/separated) at 2-year follow-up, compared with status at enrollment.

Results:

At the time of enrollment, 134 participants (38%) were single/never married; 151 (42%) were married, and 72 (20%) were divorced/separated. Of those married at enrollment, 78% remained married at year 2 while 22% underwent negative change. Multivariable analyses revealed that age and education at the time of injury and mental health utilization prior to injury were significant predictors of relationship change. Among those who were single/divorced/separated at the time of enrollment, 87% remained so at year 2 while 13% underwent positive change. Injury during deployment significantly predicted positive relationship change.

Conclusions:

The unmalleable, preinjury characteristics identified may be used as potential triggers for education, prevention, surveillance, and couples therapy, if needed.

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