Are gender, marital status or parenthood risk factors for outcome of treatment for chronic disabling spinal disorders?

Robert J. Gatchel, Tom G. Mayer, Cindy L. Kidner, Donald D. McGeary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Recent clinical research has suggested that single working mothers may differ in their response to health treatment and outcomes, relative to their married female or male counterparts. The present study explored, on an a priori basis, the existence and extent of differences in chronic pain rehabilitation outcomes of pain report, return-to-work and future health utilization for single working mothers, relative to other patients. A cohort of 1,679 consecutive chronically disabled work related spinal disorder (CDWRSD) patients were placed into one of eight groups as a function of gender, marital status (single/married), and parenthood (with/without children). All patients completed an assessment battery measuring psychosocial variables at pre- and post-treatment, and a structured clinical interview evaluating socioeconomic outcomes at 1 year following completion of a 5-7 week functional restoration program. Results revealed that single females with children differed from all other groups in racial representation, with 57.1% of these individuals being African American, widely disparate from the prevailing local ethnicity. Single females and males with children were represented by a higher incidence of cervical injuries (25.0% and 26.7%, respectively) than all other groups (5.4-16.6%, p < .001). Contrary to expectation, the 8 groups did not differ significantly in program completion rate, work return, work retention, health utilization, recurrent injury or case settlement rates at one-year follow-up. The single females with children group did display greater levels of depression pre-treatment compared to the other groups. However, at post-treatment, these differences no longer existed. This investigation is one of the first to examine if the combination of gender and parenthood distinguishes significantly among CDWRSD patients. Overall, contrary to expectation, the single mothers did not show any significant differences in CDWRSD outcome at one-year post-rehab follow-up, and the single mothers and fathers showed no differences in depression or pain severity post-treatment. Thus, in spite of the societal belief to the contrary, it seems that single parent patients can show similar chronic pain rehabilitation outcomes, relative to other CDWRSD patients, after a prescribed course of tertiary functional restoration rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-201
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic spinal pain
  • Depression
  • Disability
  • Functional restoration
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Parenthood
  • Socioeconomic outcomes
  • Spinal disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Occupational Therapy
  • Rehabilitation


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