Factors affecting employment following spinal cord injury: A qualitative study

Authors: Charbonneau, A., Bruning, W., Titus-Howard, T., Ellerbeck, E., Whittle, J., Hall, S., Campbell, J., Lewis, S., & Munro, S.
Year Published 2001
Publication Rehabilitation Psychology
Volume 46
Number 4
Pages 400-416
Publisher Educational Publishing Foundation

Results from the University of Michigan Model Spinal Cord Injury Care Systems database indicate that, even though 59% of persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) are employed before injury, the majority (75%) are not employed at follow-up after injury.


The purpose of the study was to examine factors influencing successful return to work following spinal cord injury (SCI).


The setting included a variety of rehabilitation programs.


Six employed and 6 unemployed persons with SCI were matched based on education, race, age, gender, time since injury, and level of function.

Data Collection

This was a qualitative research design. Interviews were used to collect data.


A comparison was made between employed persons to unemployed persons.


Psychological and environmental factors were found to be the strongest moderating variables affecting employment. Key psychological factors associated with employment were optimism, self-esteem, achievement orientation, and role models. Key environmental factors were monetary incentives, disincentives, access, and accommodation.


Employment barriers and the perception of these barriers as insurmountable need to be decreased. Policies that promote return to work with former employers are likely to improve employment rates for persons with SCI. A more intensive job exploration process using job shadowing of peers and positive peer models may also improve employment after SCI.

URL http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2001-05160-003
Populations White / Caucasian | Male
Outcomes Full-time employment | Part-time employment | Return to work
NIDILRR Funded Yes
Research Design Qualitative
Peer Reviewed Yes