Today’s Tip of the Day talks about Divorce after Brain Injury.
Have you heard that the divorce rate after brain injury is high? Don’t believe everything you hear.
Research has given a mixed picture of divorce rates after brain injury. In the 1970s, researchers began to study post-injury divorce rates and found that 40% of couples were either separated or divorced seven years after injury. A review of studies published after 1980 shows alarmingly high post-injury divorce rates ranging from 48% to 78%.
There is little doubt that brain injury can strain marriages. Spouses often take on many of the injured person’s responsibilities, though they may have little experience with their new responsibilities. Unemployment rates after brain injury are relatively high and many insurance companies do not cover the costs of therapy, adding to financial stresses. Brain injury often brings on drastic personality changes which may include irritability, depression, limited awareness of injury-related changes, and argumentativeness. Some spouses have reported, “I’m married, but to a stranger”.
In 2007, Virginia Commonwealth University TBI Model Systems researchers published one of the first comprehensive investigations of marriage after brain injury. The researchers gathered information from 120 people with mild, moderate, and severe injuries who were married at the time of their injury. Survivors three to eight years post-injury, averaging 41 years of age, were asked about their marital status. Results showed that 3 out of 4 (90/120) remained married at the time of follow-up.
As a result of their research, the VCU investigators became concerned that past studies may have produced misleading negative information. In their published research paper, the authors stated, “The present investigation does not [support] the notion that divorce rates for persons with brain injury are higher than those for the general population.”
Recent research suggests the rate of divorce after brain injury may, in fact, be much lower than divorce rates for the general population. The news is encouraging. While some spouses report more stresses and marital troubles post-injury, some report connecting with each other in new, positive ways as they face injury-related challenges together.
Here are more findings:
- 17% of survivors were divorced and 8% were separated, an overall
- marital breakdown rate of 25%
- male and female survivors had similar marital breakdown rates the more serious the injury, the greater likelihood of divorce; for example, on average, people who were divorced had been unconscious three times as long as people who were still married
- age mattered; people who were older at the time of injury were much more likely to stay
- married; no participant 60 years old or older was separated or divorced
- length of marriage was important; people who had been married for longer periods of time before the injury were more likely to stay married after the injury; none of the couples married 30 years or more before the injury got separated or divorced.
Other important study results:
- only 15% of subjects were separated or divorced
- age was a very important predictor of marital stability with older persons less likely to divorce
- male survivors were more likely to have an unstable marriage (i.e. to be separated or divorced) than female survivors
- cause of injury was an important factor; persons who were injured as a result of violence were less likely to be married at follow-up
- for minority group members, persons with more severe injuries were more likely to remain married
Check out our learning library at www.alaskabraininjury.net for online pamphlets with more tips on this and other issues that affect those with brain injury.
*the Tips of the Day are for informational purposes only and are not to replace the advice of a health care provider. See your doctor if you have any concerns bother medical and emotional. t