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Title: Male partner experiences of females with an acquired brain injury : an interpretative phenomenological analysis
Author: Brunsden, Cara
ISNI:       0000 0004 6057 7944
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2014
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Relationships following acquired brain injury (ABI) are extremely vulnerable to strain and breakdown (Burridge, Huw Williams, Yates, Harris, & Ward, 2007; Kreutzer, Gervasio, & Camplair, 1994). Spouses are faced with the challenge of adapting to the emotional, cognitive and behavioural changes in their loved one; an often distressing, overwhelming and unpredictable experience. With the spouse more likely to take the lead role as caregiver, they are left suffering the burden associated with such major role change (Chwalisz & Stark-Wroblewski, 1996). Acquired brain injury may result in damage to the frontal lobe, temporal lobe and the limbic and pituitary system; areas known to be associated with sexual function (Oddy, 2001). Additionally, loss of confidence, memory impairment, anxiety and fear of failure to perform sexually, may indirectly impact on a couple’s ability to mutually enjoy sexual intimacy (Moreno, Arango Lasprilla, Gan, & McKerral, 2013). To date, the published literature in the field of sexual intimacy following ABI is primarily limited to quantitative studies which report divorce and separation rates (Godwin, Kreutzer, Arango Lasprilla, & Lehan, 2011). The qualitative experience, from the viewpoint of the person with an ABI and their intimate partner, is so often missed. The first paper within this thesis, a systematic review of intimacy post-ABI, narrows this gap within the current literature base by synthesising the results of six qualitative papers. Acquired brain injury can transform the lives of family members (Bowen, Yeates, & Palmer, 2010). Partners have been referred to as the ‘hidden patients’ following ABI (Fengler & Goodrich, 1979) as they, too, are required to make huge, yet unnoticed, changes to their lives. Published literature exploring partners and spouses following ABI, to date, has overlooked the viewpoint of the male partner. Their experience of role change, intimacy and resilience is not represented, nor have their personal stories been told. The second paper within this thesis explores just that, the male partner’s lived experience, following their female partner’s ABI. Adhering to the analytic methodology of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009), the males’ accounts are presented in the form of a coherent and insightful narrative of the experience of the male partner. Together, the two papers highlight the need for services to support the couple jointly, without disregarding the needs of the uninjured partner. The importance of support for the couple throughout the entire rehabilitation process is highlighted, as so often partners’ needs remain unmet. Sexuality following ABI needs to be openly explored, with relationship counselling and couples therapy routinely offered. Further studies exploring the male partner experience following their female partner’s ABI would add richness to the themes presented here.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available