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Spinal Cord. 2000 Jan;38(1):2-6.

Spinal cord injury and partner relationships.

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  • 1Department of Physiotherapy, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Institute of Clinical Neuroscience, Göteborg, Sweden.



Among the many issues confronting a newly spinal cord injured (SCI) person are apprehension about the potential impact of the acquired disability on present or future intimate relationships.


To summarize the research regarding partner relationships and SCI.


Medline, Psychlit and Cinahl database researches were undertaken.


Several studies have focused on the issue of marital status before and after the onset of the injury. The results of the studies carried out on the prevalence of divorce are conflicting. Divorce rates have been reported to be anywhere from 8% to 48%. It appears that divorce rates tend to decline to the normal rate for the general population after the initial high risk period. Some studies have shown that marital status is a powerful predictor of independent-living outcome variables. Thus, marital stability is a concern in SCI care. The study investigating why able-bodied women might choose to marry men with a permanent physical disability, such as a SCI, showed a substantial overlap with existing models of courtship. It was also shown that a SCI person who strives to minimise the impact of the disability on a potential partner makes a more attractive candidate for a long-term relationship than an individual who has come to rely on others.


Partner relationships seem to be affected by a SCI, although not as much as is widely believed. There are, however, problems interpreting the varying results of the studies due to culture differences, changes in family life in society in general and the different methodologies used. Systematic research that puts the patients' and partners' problems into perspective is necessary. Uniformity in measurement instruments would facilitate comparisons of studies.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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