Sexuality following functional transection of the spinal cord

Date

1967

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Abstract

The aim of this inquiry was to explore several aspects of the sexual attitudes, functioning, and behavior of persons with functionally complete transactions of the spinal cord. Two hypotheses were examined: 1) sex role identification is negatively related to degree of disability (level of spinal cord lesion), and 2) sex role identification of spinally injured males is weaker than that of spinally injured females with respect to their non-injured peers. Three groups of subjects participated in the study: the injured, their spouses, and staff members of a rehabilitation center. The injured subjects, 35 males and 8 females, had sustained complete transections of the spinal cord at least one year prior to participation. Each subject completed the research instruments in the following order: Ammons Full Range Picture Vocabulary Test; Adjective Check List; test-taking attitude and femininity scales from the California Psychological Inventory; a questionnaire concerning sexual functions, attitudes, and behaviors; and a tape-recorded, semi-structured interview. Four wives of injured males were administered the vocabulary test; a sexual questionnaire which focused primarily on their husbands' sexual capabilities, behaviors, and attitudes; and a tape-recorded interview. The 20 staff members included 9 physical therapists, 5 social workers, 2 occupational therapists, 2 nurses, and 2 physicians. They completed, in privacy, an anonymous questionnaire which probed their knowledge, observations, and perceptions of the sexuality of spinally injured persons. Scores from quantitative measures of test-taking attitudes (faking, defensiveness). Interview responses, and the examiner's impressions were consistent in suggesting that the injured subjects responded to the research instruments in a reasonably unguarded and frank manner. These data suggest that, in spite of the very personal and intimate nature of the study, the data can be considered reliable. In spite of the fact that spinal injury placed limitations and prompted decreases in sexual activity, the psychosexuality of these persons remained quite active. Desire, thinking, and dreaming of a sexual nature, as well as attachment of importance and interest in sex, remained at pre-injury levels. Sexual concerns were quite heavily permeated with interpersonal concerns, and showed a shift from behavioral to intellectual and interpersonal activities, possibly as an adjustment to the sexual limitations imposed by the injury. Sex role identification appeared to be uninfluenced by the consequences of spinal cord injury. However, the small number of subjects prevented an adequate examination of the two hypotheses. The vital concerns and involvement regarding sexuality as demonstrated by the subjects of this study, suggest that this aspect of living should receive more deliberate attention in the rehabilitation process.

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Keywords

Spinal cord--Wounds and injuries--Psychological effect., Sex role.

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