Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Altmaier, Elizabeth

First Committee Member

Ehly, Stewart

Second Committee Member

Nicpon, Megan Foley

Third Committee Member

Ansley, Timothy

Fourth Committee Member

Estrada-Hernandez, Noel


Severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a pervasive and devastating condition, often resulting in permanent alterations in cognition, behavior, and personality. As such, survivors of severe TBI usually rely on the assistance of caregivers to navigate situations of daily living throughout their life span. Spouses of individuals with TBI have been shown to experience greater levels of burden than parental caregivers of TBI survivors (Kreutzer et al., 1994; Mauss-Clum & Ryan, 1981) and subsequently rates of divorce and separation have been documented within the research literature to be high (Thomsen, 1984; Wood et al., 2005). Although marital breakdown has been frequently studied, research on marital satisfaction and coping within long-term marriages where one spouse has survived a severe TBI remains insufficient.

The purpose of this study was to provide a descriptive analysis of long-term spousal caregivers of individuals with severe TBI. First, demographic variables of caregiving spouses of individuals with severe TBI, who remained married at least 10 years post injury, were described and comparisons to other spousal caregiver samples were addressed. Second, the relationship between marital adjustment and demographic variables, coping, and quality of life was examined. Finally, an analysis of primary stressors was conducted to better understand the caregiving spouses' continued experience of stressors.

Twenty-one spousal caregivers who remained married for at least 10 years post injury to their spouse who sustained a severe TBI participated in the study. Analyses revealed that spouses had remained married an average of 19 years post-injury and in general were mildly dissatisfied within their marriages. Furthermore, marital adjustment (Dyadic Adjustment Scale total score) of long-term spousal caregivers of severe TBI was not significantly different than spousal caregivers of individuals with chronic illness. Higher marital satisfaction scores were associated with higher endorsement of emotion-focused coping strategies and greater mental health quality of life. In addition, marital satisfaction was positively associated with the longevity of the marital relationship, the age of the spouse at the time of the injury, and the length of the marriage at the time when the injury was sustained. As expected, higher scores of marital satisfaction were associated with higher levels of mental health quality of life. There were no significant relationships between physical health quality of life and marital satisfaction. An analysis of primary stressors show that long-term caregiving spouses continue to report similar types of stressors as indicated in the research literature from caregiving spouses during the first 5 to 8 years post injury. Findings were discussed in relation to implications for practice and additional research.


Coping strategies, long-term caregiving, Marital Satisfacation, Spousal Caregivers, Traumatic Brain Injury


ix, 139 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 125-139).


Copyright 2013 JoAnna Lynn Arguello