Introduction: More than 300,000 soldiers have returned from Southwest Asia (i.e., Iraq and Afghanistan) with combat-related mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs). Despite less visible physical injuries, these soldiers demonstrate various physical and cognitive symptoms that impact their ability to reintegrate post-mTBI. This study explores family reintegration experiences, as described by married dyads, following a combat-related mTBI. Methods: Nine soldiers with mTBI and their spouses participated, and a total of 27 interviews, both joint and individual, were conducted. Strauss and Corbin's grounded theory methodology and semistructured interviews were used to collect participants' perceptions and analyze the data. Findings: The overarching theme of the reintegration experience is described as finding the "new normal." A new normal was defined by participants as the couple's new, post-mTBI expectation of the family unit or family routine. Some participants indicated that they had accepted the post-mTBI changes and were working toward this new normal, whereas others indicated these changes were unacceptable and continued their efforts to return to pre-injury functioning. Conclusions: Individuals with mTBI and their families may benefit from interventions that directly address mismatched expectations and promote the acceptance of a new normal.
- Combat-related mild traumatic brain injury
- Family reintegration
- New normal
- Post-brain injury adjustment
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