Are spousal partner perceptions of continuity and discontinuity within the relationship linked to the symptoms of acquired brain injury?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


Purpose: Some partners experience their relationship with a person with brain injury as the continuation of a loving pre-injury relationship (continuity), but others feel that the pre-injury relationship has been lost and replaced with something very different (discontinuity). This study provided a quantitative test of claims arising from qualitative research that certain symptoms of the injury might contribute to the experience of discontinuity – specifically, lack of emotional warmth, reduced social interaction and aggression.
Method: Fifty-three partners providing care to someone with brain injury completed questionnaires assessing continuity/discontinuity and a range of symptoms (emotional warmth, conversational ability, aggression, depression, somatic complaints, cognition, communication, aggression and physical disability).
Results: Discontinuity was significantly correlated with all symptom variables except physical disability but, in a multiple regression, only the measures of emotional warmth, conversation, aggression and depression made a significant unique contribution.
Conclusion: Discontinuity has been linked with relationship dissatisfaction and dysfunction, greater burden and distress, and a less person-centred approach to the provision of care. Identifying which symptoms contribute to discontinuity may enable partners to be more effectively supported in terms of how they make sense of and react to those symptoms, so that a greater sense of continuity may be retained.

Bibliographic note

Funding: This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number00
Early online date18 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2021


  • marriage, caregivers, interpersonal relationships, relationship continuity, brain injury, aggression